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About Haiti

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is located in the Carribean just 681 miles southeast of Florida. Factors such as frequent hurricanes and tropical storms, the earthquake of 2010, and an unstable political climate have contributed to Haiti’s extreme poverty and need.

Poverty in Haiti

In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered Haiti, a land inhabited by the Tainos people. European colonization began in Haiti in the 15th century and within a few decades, ill treatment of the Tainos by the Spanish colonizers and European diseases killed off the Taino population.

In the 17th and 18th centuries French colonizers began kidnapping and enslaving of hundreds of thousands of Africans who were used for their labor on sugarcane plantations. The descendants of these slaves are the people of Haiti today, and there has been virtually no voluntary immigration.

In 1791 the slave population revolted against the French. Their victories gave them control of the northern part of the colony. In 1804 an army was sent by Napolean Bonaparte to reestablish control. Local forces were once again victorious. With this victory Ayiti became the first free black republic and just the second independent nation in the western hemisphere after the United States. For the next 100 years Haiti saw much political upheaval with more than 70 different dictators enforcing their rule.

Earthquake HaitiFrance was slow to recognize Haiti’s freedom and imposed a fee on the country of 150 million gold francs as retribution for lost property. Desperate to surface from a penalizing embargo placed by France, Britian, and the United States Haiti agreed to pay the fee, which was later reduced to 90 million. Forced to take out high interest loans, Haiti struggled under the burden of debt until 1947.

Situated in a hurricane belt, Haiti has been victim to many natural  disasters throughout its history. In 2010, Haiti faced it’s worst ever, a  7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 220,000 people  and left over a million homeless.

Despite their tumultuous history and present poverty, Haitians  remain a people of amazing strength and spirit.

The following  facts paint a picture of present day Haiti.

Economy and Employment

The  population of Haiti is 10,033,000 people. a

Eighty percent of Haitians live under the poverty line and 54% live in abject poverty. The average per capita income in Haiti is $480 a year, compared to $33,550 in the United States.b

A typical worker in Haiti makes only $2.75 a day. Because jobs are so scarce (approximately 70% do not have regular jobs), those who do have jobs are afraid to speak out against unfair labor practices.e

aApproximately 1% of Haiti’s population owns more than 50% of the nation’s wealth.b

Education

French is one of two official languages. Approximately 90% of Haitians use Creole as their primary language.b

Only about 50% of Haiti’s children are enrolled in elementary school, only 10% of these children go on to a high school.b

Throughout the mid and late twentieth centuries, Haiti experienced a “brain drain” as educated professionals and business people left the nation to escape brutal dictators. This exodus weakened Haiti because it was left with fewer and fewer skilled workers to run businesses, health centers, government offices, and schools.b

Health and Healthcare

Haiti immunization1 in 12 children die before age five.a

Haiti has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Western Hemisphere. One in 50 people are infected.e

Half of the children in Haiti are unvaccinated, and just 40% of the population has access to basic health care.b

There is one hospital bed for every 10,000 inhabitants. There are only about eight doctors and 10 nurses for every 100,000 inhabitants.b

An estimated 25-40% of children under five suffer chronic malnutrition.e

The infant mortality rate in Haiti is high at 74 deaths per 1,000 births. The maternal mortality rate is also high: about 520 deaths per 100,000 births (compared to just 14 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in the United States).i

Even before the 2010 earthquake, only 54% of Haitians had access to sanitation facilities (toilets, indoor plumbing, sewer systems). Less than half had a regular source of safe drinking water.i

Most rivers in Haiti are polluted with human and other waste. Diseases such as hookworm and typhoid, which are transmitted by contaminated food and water, are common in Haiti.e

 

Children

Haiti has the highest percentage of orphans of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Before the 2010 earthquake, the United Nations estimated there were 430,000 orphans.e

Hope in Haiti

Development

Haiti is one of the least developed yet most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. Its population density is 747 people per square mile (295 per sq. km.).c Comparable in size to Haiti, Vermont’s population density is 65.8 people per square mile (25.9 sq.km.).k The United States’ is 79.55 people per square miles (30.71 sq. km.).c

The hurricane season in 2008 stripped approximately 70% of Haiti’s crops. This damage was the most expensive in Haiti’s history at an estimated $1 billion.i

Throughout the mid and late twentieth centuries, Haiti experienced a “brain drain” as educated professionals and business people left the nation to escape brutal dictators. This exodus weakened Haiti because it was left with fewer and fewer skilled workers to run businesses, health centers, government offices, and schools.b

Haiti has 2,583 miles (4,160 km.) of highways. Only 628 miles (1,011km.) of those roads are paved.i

Haiti has 14 airports, of which only four have paved runways.i

In 2008, Haiti had only 108,000 telephone lines. The country with the most telephone lines in 2008 was China with 356,600,000 million. The United States was second with 150,000,000.i

Experts claim that it will take decades for Haiti to recover from the January 2010 earthquake. Nearly 75% of the capital will need to be rebuilt, not from zero, but from, as officials declare, “below zero.” Recovery plans include completely rebuilding basic sectors such as health, agriculture, governance and security, and infrastructure.g


References

a Haiti.” Who.int. Accessed: November 28, 2011.

b Blashfield, Jean F. 2008. Haiti: Enchantment of the World. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.

cCountries of the World: Populations.” WorldAtlas.com. Accessed: March 21, 2010.

d Dash, J. Michael. 2001. Culture and Customs of Haiti. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

e Goldstein, Margaret J. 2006. Haiti in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications.

fHaiti Raises Earthquake Toll to 230,000.” MSNBC.com. February 9, 2010. Accessed: March 22, 2010.

gHaiti Recovery to Take Decades.” BBCNews. January 29, 2010. Accessed: March 22, 2010.

h NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. 1995. Haiti (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Times Editions Pte Ltd.

iThe World Factbook: Haiti.” Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed: March 20, 2010.