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About Haiti

Haiti At A Glance:

  • Population: 10,746,000 (824 persons/sq mile)
  • Life expectancy: 62.7 years
  • Yearly income per capita: $817 (poorest in Western Hemisphere, 3rd poorest in world)
  • Literacy rate: 60.7% (95.5% in US)
  • Persons per physician: 4,000 (385 in US)
  • Infant mortality per 1000 live births: 59 (7.5 in US)
  • Maternal mortality per 100,000 births: 160 (12 in US)
  • Yearly health care expenditure per capita: $77 ($2765 in US)

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Haiti In Depth

Population

Haiti is about the size of Maryland but has a population of 6,732,000 (1996). That means there are 630 persons per square mile 30.3 percent urban, 69.7 percent rural. It is a beautiful but rugged mountainous country being more mountainous per sq ft than Switzerland. The capital is Port-au-Prince with an estimated population of 1 million.

Income

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of $400, in rural areas $100. 1.9% of the United States of America.

Diet

The staple elements of the diet are corn, cassavas, millet, rice, and fruits. As the average annual income of rural Haitians is less than $100, people rarely eat meat, fish, milk, or eggs. The economy is heavily dependent on farming, which employs 60 percent of the labor force. Only 30 percent of the territory is considered suitable for cultivation, but population growth has forced many farmers to occupy marginal areas, and about half of the land is actually in agriculture. The principal cash crops are coffee, sugar, sisal, and essential oils. Coffee generates a third of Haiti's income from exports. Sugar production has fallen dramatically because of growing local consumption and the production of rum. There is industry around Port-Au-Prince. Roads are poor.

Education

Literacy is 53%. There are not enough schools or teachers and most schools are private. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school since all schools even government ones require tuition, books and uniforms to be paid. If they can afford to send one or two, they must choose which to send.

Language

All Haitians speak Creole, a simplified form of French. 10% speak French (the official language). The people are 10% Mulatto (French +African)- 90% African (most from Benin and Ivory Coast).

History

Columbus landed in northern Haiti in 1492 and set up his first settlement. It was wiped out by the Indians but other settlements were successful and the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo dates from the early 1500s. French Pirates of Tortuga Island led to French colonists, who imported African slaves for sugar plantations. With more and more French, the Spanish eventually lost control of the western half of the island. Under French rule from 1697, Haiti (then called Saint-Domingue) was one of the world's richest sugar and coffee producers. In 1791 spurred by the French Revolution there was a slave revolt. The country was reported to be dedicated to Satan by the slave leaders at that time. In 1801 a former slave, Toussaint L'Ouverature, conquered the whole island and abolished slavery. In 1802, Napoleon I sent a French army under Gen. Charles Leclerc to subdue the Haitians. Leclerc captured Toussaint, but the Haitian forces under Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe defeated the French. The whole island was declared independent on Jan. 1, 1804, and given the name of Haiti (High Place), the second independent nation in the Americas. Dessalines took the title of Emperor Jacques I and, upon his assassination, was succeeded by Christophe. Christophe's rule, however, was challenged by the mulattoes led by Alexandre Petion, who established a separate state in the south. In 1820, after Christophe's suicide, Petion's successor, Jean Pierre Boyer, united Haiti and soon controlled the entire island. In 1844 the Spanish-speaking group of the eastern part of the island broke away from the French speaking part and established the Dominican Republic. Ruled by self-styled emperors, Haiti's subsequent history is one of economic poverty, dictatorship, and occasional anarchy, with a period of U.S. military occupation (1915-34). In 1957 Francois "Papa Doc" Duvaier was elected president. Supported by a personal police force, the Tonton Macoutes (the Bogie Men), he imposed an especially repressive rule, relaxed to some degree only after his death (1971), when he was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc). Baby Doc fled the country in 1986, and a period of social and political unrest followed. In 1991 Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular priest, became president after free elections; the army ousted him later that year. The Organization of American States called for his restoration and imposed an economic embargo, but a series of civilian leaders were appointed while the army retained real power. The UN approved an oil (1993) and near-total trade (1994) embargo and subsequently authorized the use of force to restore Aristide. In 1994 an agreement calling for Aristide's return was negotiated amid invasion preparations by the U.S., and U.S. and Caribbean forces oversaw Aristide's restoration to power (Oct. 1994). Parliamentary and local elections, held in late June 1995, were held in a generally peaceful atmosphere, although numerous irregularities were noted by foreign electoral observers. Haiti's new president Rene Preval, took office in February 1996. Airstide was reelected in 2000. On Feb 29, 2004 Aristide resigned the presidency under pressure from armed rebels. There was an interim government in place for about 2 years trying to arrange a new election. This was accomplished on Feb. 7, 2006. Prior to the election there was an increase in violence and kidnappings especially in Port-au-Prince. Following the elections gang members supporting Aristide, who remains in exile in South Africa, diminished their activities with the announcement of Rene Preval’s election. There was question about the legitimacy of the electoral process, but the margin between him and the runner up was large and so accepted by the people and eventually those overseeing the election. 72% of the population profess to be Roman Catholic, but many also practice VooDoo. Up to 75% of population practice VooDoo. Up to 20% of the population may be evangelical Christians. VooDoo's various gods and spirits include: Bondieu- likened to our God but distant, Loa's- lesser spirits, Baron Samedi (Satan?), Erzuli (Loa of fertility). These gods are appeased by animal sacrifice (rarely human) and ritual dances and trances. Each person is believed to have several souls that are passed on to others at death. Most Haitians believe in Lupgarous which are werewolves, and Zombies. Because the populace is widely accepting of spiritual forces, evangelism is accepted. Most people know very clearly if they are Christian or not. Most have heard Bible stories, sung hymns, and prayed. Most are open to Christianity but like in the US, do not feel a need to make a decision until crises arise. Mortality is never so obvious as when ill, thus making medical evangelism an extremely important tool for bringing the unsaved to Christ.