Haiti is found in the archipelago of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, neighboring the Dominican Republic (which occupies about two-thirds of the island). With an area of 10,714 square miles and a population of approximately 10.6 million people, the nation is the most populous country in the Caribbean.
In January 2010, Haiti made world headlines due to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country. The nation’s government estimated that 230,000 died and 3 million were affected by the calamity. About 1.6 million people were left homeless. The country suffered approximately $8 billion dollars in damages, greatly affecting its GDP and economy.
But even before the 2010 earthquake, Haiti had already been suffering from severe poverty. The nation is the poorest in the western hemisphere. Corrupt regimes, years of colonialism, inequality, lack of infrastructure, natural disasters, and environmental degradation are some of the major causes of poverty in Haiti. International aid has been flowing into the country and there have been some positive developments after the earthquake in 2010, but the fight against poverty is still an ongoing one in this nation.
Levels of Poverty
- According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 2.5 million Haitians live in extreme poverty as of 2015.
- Haiti is the third hungriest country in the world. About 1.9 million Haitians already needed food assistance even before the 2010 earthquake.
- Based on a UNDP 2015 report, Haiti ranks 168 out of 187 on the Human Development Index for 2014.
- Poverty is mainly in the rural areas at 75.2%; in the urban areas it is at 40.8%.
- Unemployment in the urban centers of the country is at 50 percent. More than two-thirds of the labor force don’t have formal jobs.
- Two out of three Haitians live on less than $2 each day, while 24.7% of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day.
- Only less than 50% of households in Haiti have access to safe water from a well or hand pump. Most of the population rely on rivers, lakes, and streams regardless of the cleanliness.
- Only 25% of households benefit from adequate sanitation. This means that most of the population are unable to clean themselves and become more susceptible to infections and diseases.
- There were approximately 380,000 orphans in Haiti before the 2010 earthquake, and thousands more were orphaned after the earthquake struck. Many of them these orphans live on the streets.
- There are an estimated 1 in every 15 children who are living as restaveks, meaning they work as servants with no pay and are often treated as slaves. They usually become restaveks for relatives or strangers because their parents can’t afford to support them.
- The Gross National Income per capita of Haiti is $1,730 according to the World Bank data in 2014. The average GNI for developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is $14,098.
- 70 percent of the country’s total income is possessed by 10 percent of the richest in Haiti.
- Even if agriculture is an important sector in Haiti, it cannot produce enough food. Thirty percent of the population is considered food insecure.
- The nation imports 80% of its rice and over 50% of its population’s food needs.
- Two-fifths of Haitians depend on the agriculture sector (mainly on small-scale subsistence farming), but the sector is vulnerable due to frequent natural disasters that are worsened by deforestation.
- Only 10% of crops are irrigated; this means that 90% of farmers depend on rain for their farms and harvest.
- GDP rose to 5.5% in 2011 as the economy began to recover from the earthquake. But growth slowed down to 2% in 2015 due to drought, political uncertainty, and depreciation of the national currency.
- Weak infrastructure and unreliable access to electricity are some of the reasons why businesses and investments are slow to come in.
- After the 2010 earthquake, donor countries canceled Haiti’s outstanding foreign debt. However, as of December 2015, the country owes almost $2 billion dollars in external debts, mostly to Venezuela under the Petrocaribe program.
- Haiti continues to depend on international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. Even if the government has increased its revenue collection, more than 20% of its annual budget comes from foreign aid or direct budget support.
Health and Nutrition
- 100,000 children who are aged 5 years or younger suffer from acute malnutrition. The mortality rate for this age group is 88 per 1000 live births.
- One in three children suffers from stunted growth or is irreversibly short for their age.
- One-third of women and children in Haiti are anemic.
- Numbers from UNICEF in 2015 peg the infant mortality rate at 55 per 1000 births.
- Approximately 1 in 285 births in Haiti will result in a woman’s death. This is 16 times higher compared to the United States.
- The life expectancy is 63 years.
- According to a 2016 article from the World Bank, approximately 90% of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school in Haiti. However, many of these children will drop out before completing primary school without having mastered any basic language or math skills. Many will also repeat a grade. Thirty percent of those attending primary school will not make it to 3rd grade and sixty percent will drop out before 6th grade.
- USAID numbers in 2015 show that only 29% of Haitians aged 25 and above attended secondary school.
- About 50% of teachers in Haiti lack basic qualifications; an estimate of 80% of teachers don’t have any pre-service training.
- The literacy rate in Haiti is 57% for females and 60%-64% for males. In developing countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, the average literacy rate is 92%.
- More than 500,000 Haitians are threatened by the shocks induced by climate change every year.
- Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt. It is subject to severe storms from June to October, and it experiences periodic droughts as well as occasional flooding and earthquakes.
- Extensive deforestation is one of the major current environmental issues in the country. Most of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and fuel.
Poverty is still extremely rampant and is at such high levels in Haiti that it still warrants attention from the international community.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.