Haiti occupies the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. It shares a border with the Dominican Republic and is situated some 700 miles from the coast of Miami.
Having a tropical climate Haiti is hot and humid for most of the year. It is rugged and mountainous. It lies in the middle of the hurricane belt. It is subject to severe storms and is earthquake prone.
Haiti has a population of approximately 10 million. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. More than two thirds of the population are unemployed.
Roughly 80% are Roman Catholic. The languages are Haitian Creole and French.
The country was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. It was inhabited by Taino Amerindians. In the early seventeenth century the French established a presence on Hispaniola and it became a French colony. African slaves were imported by the thousands to work on sugar, coffee and tobacco plantations. Haiti became independent in 1804.
The earthquake which struck in 2010 has been assessed as the worst in the region during the last 200 years. The country required massive international assistance.
- Two and a half million Haitians live in extreme poverty.
- Two out of three Haitians live on less than $US 2 per day.
- Of the urban population fifty per cent are unemployed.
- Shocks induced by climate change threaten over 500,000 Haitians each year.
- 100,000 children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, while one in three is stunted or is irreversibly short.
- Less than 50% of households have access to clean water, and only 25% benefit from adequate sanitation.
- The literacy rates for the general population is less than fifty per cent.