Haiti at a Glance
The country of Haiti makes up the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola. (The eastern part consists of the Dominican Republic.) The island of Hispaniola is located south of Florida in the Caribbean, nestled between Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
Haiti is very mountainous, and the country's name derives from an aboriginalword meaning "high ground."
Ninety-five percent of Haiti is of African descent and its primary religion is Roman Catholic. The capital of Haiti is Port-au-Prince and the country's official languages are French and Creole. A president is elected to a five-year term.
A Tiny Island in Need
Haiti is slightly smaller than Maryland but it has a population of roughly 9 million people, many living in poorly constructed shanties. Even before the recent earthquake devastation, Haiti was considered one of the most densely populated, least developed and poorest places in the world.
Eighty percent of Haiti's residents face poverty and more than half the country is forced to live on less than $1 a day. Only 50 percent of Haiti's population has access to safe drinking water and, even before the quake, 1.9 million people were considered "food insecure," meaning they needed assistance to stave off hunger. Chronic malnutrition affects 24 percent of children less than 5.
Hobbled by Poverty
Nearly 40 percent of Haiti's population is under the age of 14. The average life expectancy for a Haitian is 60 years old (ranked 181st in the world out of 190 countries). Approximately half of the population cannot read or write and, according to a 2003 estimate, there are 280,000 Haitians coping with either HIV or AIDS.
Much of Haiti has been deforested and heavy rains often cause mudslides and flooding, which have made commercial farming unsustainable. In 2009, four weeks of storms in the capital of Port-au-Prince led to flooding which killed more than 800 people.
Substandard farming conditions, combined with decades of political and social unrest, have crippled Haiti's economy. Without continued help from international charities and generous donations from individuals like you, it will be next to impossible for millions of Haitians to continue their day-to-day survival.