Haiti, in the West Indies, occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.
About the size of Maryland, Haiti is two-thirds mountainous, with the rest of the country marked by great valleys, extensive plateaus, and small plains.
Fact: Approximately 80% of the Haitian population lives in abject poverty, making it the second poorest country in the world.
Fact: 52% of Haitians are illiterate.
Fact: Three out of every four children in Haiti are malnourished.
Haiti is the second free nation of the Western hemisphere and the world’s first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. Haiti is located in the Caribbean and is the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The island is shared with the Dominican Republic to the East of Haiti.
The country was founded out of a massive slave revolt that resulted in the massacre of virtually every French colonist living in Haiti. The bloody victory destroyed the entire administrative structure that existed in Haiti. The following 200 years has seen continual mismanagement has resulted in a subsistence economy without much hope.
Haiti is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and has a tropical climate. Its terrain is mostly rough and mountainous. Haiti used to be known as “The Jewel of the Antilles” and was the richest colony in the world. It was one of the most beautiful places on earth. Now due to deforestation and gross mismanagement of resources, it has become a polluted, rugged place to live. Entire areas are turning to desert as a result of the destruction of the ecosystem that existed hundreds of years ago. The country is in the middle of the hurricane belt and has had several massive hurricanes that have accelerated the soil erosion occurring as a result of the deforestation.
Haiti has roughly 8 million people. The life expectancy at birth is roughly 50 years and the infant mortality rate is over 76 deaths for every 1,000 births. The country has a significant AIDS problem that has led to higher infant mortality, an increased death rate and unusually low population growth. Approximately 95% of the population is black with the remaining 5% is mulatto and white. The primary religions are Roman Catholic and Voodoo, with Voodoo recently becoming an officially recognized religion. It is estimated that over half of all Haitians are illiterate and Haiti has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world. The official language is French, but the vast majority of people speak Creole.
Approximately 80% of the population lives in abject poverty. Approximately two-thirds of the people that work are employed by small-scale subsistence farming. The economy has been shrinking over the last few years as almost all international aid has been suspended due to irregularities in the year 2000 election process. Suspended aid and loan disbursements totaled more than $500 million at the start of 2003. Inflation averages above 10 percent and more than two-thirds of the population is unemployed. Per capita income is less than $400 per year resulting in one of the poorest countries on earth.
The infrastructure of Haiti is barely adequate and includes an unreliable national telephone and electric system and virtually no maintained roads in the entire country. There are regular blackouts in the major cities that can last for days and weeks. There is virtually no infrastructure outside of the major cities.
All of these issues have resulted in a steady illegal migration of destitute Haitians to the Dominican Republic. In addition, substantial corruption within the government has led to a complete breakdown in the administration of the country and a thriving illicit drug trafficking problem.