Haiti has a uniquely tumultuous past. It was Haiti that offered Christopher Columbus his first glimpse of the New World. Unfortunately, his discovery was immediately followed by a rush for economic gain that led to centuries of exploitation of natural resources and people. This small country has seen bloody cycles of political instability, disease (including AIDS), and poverty up to the present day.
In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country. With an epicenter only about 15 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, the impact was catastrophic. An estimated 300,000+ were killed, and approximately 1.5 million were left homeless. For a country with no leadership and plagued by poverty, there seemed to be no hope of recovery.
Today, Haiti’s population of 10 million continues to face a variety of complex challenges, including malnutrition, malaria, and waterborne diseases, which contributes to its high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy. Widespread unemployment makes it difficult for families to improve their circumstances, as more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs.
- 58.5% of the population live below the poverty line.
- 37% of the population lacks consistent access to safe drinking water.
- Nearly 76% lack access to improved sanitation facilities.
- Approximately half the population aged 15 and older cannot read and write.
- Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation.
* Statistics from The World Factbook, “Haiti,” August, 2015