Basic Facts About Haiti

  • Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas as per the Human Development Index. It has experienced political violence throughout its history.
  • Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.
  • The country’s highest point is Pic la Selle, at 8,793 feet. The total area of Haiti is 10,714 square miles with a population of 10,032,619(2) and its capital is Port-au-Prince. Haitian Creole and French are the official languages.
  • Haiti’s regional, historical, and ethno-linguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in Latin America and the first black-led republic in the world when it gained independence as part of a successful slave revolution in 1804.  Despite having common cultural links with its Hispano-Caribbean neighbors, Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone independent nation in the Americas. It is one of only two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) that designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France.

Donation Fact: $20 buys a school lunch for one student for one month – this is often the only meal they will get in a day.

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Haitian Economy

Haiti’s economy is still recovering from the massive earthquake in January 2010. Its  purchasing power parity GDP fell 8% in 2010 (from $12.15 billion to $11.18 billion) and the GDP per capita remained unchanged at (PPP US$) 1,200. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti ranked 145 of 182 countries in the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index, with 57.3% of the population being deprived in at least three of the HDI’s poverty measures.

The World Factbook reports a shortage of skilled labor, widespread unemployment and underemployment, saying “more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs”, and describes pre-earthquake Haiti as “already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty.” Most Haitians live on $2 or less per day.

Adult literacy is variously reported as 52.9% [World Factbook] and 65.3% [United Nations], and the World Bank estimates that in 2004 over 80% of college graduates from Haiti were living abroad, with their remittances home representing 52.7% of Haiti’s GDP. Cite Soleil is considered one of the worst slums in the Americas, most of its 500,000 residents live in extreme poverty. Poverty has forced at least 225,000 Haitian children to work as restavecs (unpaid household servants); the United Nations considers this to be a modern-day form of slavery.

Donation Fact: $5 will buy a litre of gas to transport supplies and food to the Sionfonds schools

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2010 earthquake in Haiti

On January 12, 2010, at 21:53 UTC, (4:53 pm local time) Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake, the country’s most severe earthquake in over 200 years. The epicenter of the quake was just outside the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. On 10 February the Haitian government gave a confirmed death toll of 230,000. Widespread damage resulted from the quake. The capital city was devastated.

The Presidential Palace was badly damaged, with the second floor entirely collapsing onto the first floor; the Haitan Parliament building, UN mission headquarters and the National Cathedral were also destroyed. International aid flowed in but was hampered by damaged infrastructure: the main port was damaged beyond immediate use, the one local airport was of limited capacity and border crossings with the Dominican Republic were distant and crowded. As many as one million Haitians were left homeless.

Haiti will need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up, according to a journalist, as “[e]ven in good times, Haiti is an economic wreck, balancing precariously on the razor’s edge of calamity.  Several international appeals were launched within days of the earthquake, including the Disasters in the United Kingdom, Young Artists for Haiti (Canada) and Hope of Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief based in the USA, which was a global effort to raise relief funds by way of a charity telethon held on January 22, 2010. International officials are looking at the short and long term priorities while continuing the daily task of managing the emergency situation. As of September 2010, there were over one million refugees living in tents and the humanitarian situation has been characterized as still being in the emergency phase.

Donation Fact: $15 buys a sewing kit for a women in the sewing collective

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Haiti one year after the earthquake

  • It is estimated about 700 million cubic feet of rubble have yet to be cleared, enough to fill six Superdomes.
  • Only 10 percent of the rubble has been removed. It is Haiti’s biggest challenge, the country’s Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerieve told ABC News today.
  • Bellerieve blamed the international community for its reluctance to fund rubble removal. “It’s not sexy. It’s very expensive and doesn’t hold up like a school or a hospital,” he said.
  • The prime minister said the bulk of the rubble cleared, enough to open most of this shattered city’s streets, was paid for by the government, although most of the removal ABC News has witnessed in four trips over the past year resulted from private initiatives — most often Haitians using shovels, picks and buckets.
  • And there are so many other challenges. Bellerieve told ABC News the government has revised upward its previous estimate of the death toll from 230,000 to 316,000, meaning about 3 percent of Haiti’s entire population perished.

Donation Fact: Just $30 will buy a child school supplies for a year

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2011 chlorea outbreak in Haiti

Haiti has suffered a year of almost biblical disasters, an earthquake followed by the destructive Hurricane Tomas which rekindled the almost dormant cholera outbreak here that claimed many lives.

The Haiti cholera outbreak is an ongoing cholera outbreak that began in late October 2010 in the rural Artibonite Department of  Haiti, about 100 kilometers (62 mi) north of the capital,Port-au-Prince, killing 4672 people by March 2011 and hospitalizing thousands more. The outbreak followed the January 2010 earthquake which devastated the country.

By March 2011, some 4,672 people have died and 252,640 cases had been reported. By the first 10 weeks of the epidemic, cholera spread to all of Haiti’s 10 departments or provinces.

On 15 March 2011, a report was issued by the University of California that predicted total infections would number up to 779,000 and total deaths up to 11,000 by November 2011, compared with earlier UN estimates that around 400,000 people would end up infected.  The revised numbers were based on more factors than the UN’s estimates, which assumed a total infection rate of between two and four percent of the population. In a statement released at the same time, the WHO said total deaths thus far had reached 4,672, with 252,640 cases reported.

 

Donation Fact: $100 buys a goat for a family

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Education in Haiti

  • The educational system of Haiti is based on the French System. Higher education, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, is provided by universities and other public and private institutions. Haiti counts 15,200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations or NGOs. The enrollment rate for primary school is 67%, and fewer than 30% reach 6th grade. Secondary schools enroll 20% of eligible-age children. Charity organizations, such as Sionfonds for Haiti, are building schools for children and providing necessary school supplies. Haiti’s literacy rate is 52.9%.
  • The January earthquake was a major setback for education reform in Haiti. Literacy levels continue to hover around 50 percent. Haiti is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world, 177th out of 186, for national spending on education.
  • Many reformers have advocated the creation of a free, public and universal education system for all primary school-age students in Haiti. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the government will need at least $3 billion USD to create an adequately funded system.

Donation Fact: $12.50 will pay a child’s school tuition for one month

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