Haiti Facts: The Basics

Haiti’s Size and Location Haiti facts are crucial knowledge for everyone volunteering in Haiti

  • Haiti is smaller than Maryland, geographically
  • About 9.5 million people (same as Los Angeles County)
  • Shares one island called “Hispaniola” with the Dominican Republic, located about 700 miles from Miami
  • Western 1/3 of the island is Haiti, other 2/3 is the D.R.

Haiti’s Colonial Legacy

  • The island where Haiti is located was named “Hispaniola” by Christopher Columbus who landed in what is now Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) in 1492
  • Haiti is the only free republic born of a successful slave rebellion. Also the first black republic. This is a special point of pride for Haitians.
  • A constant history of violence but NOT of poverty (for many years, in fact, Haiti was the richest European colony in the New World)

Religion In Haiti

  • Christian country: 80% Catholic, 15% Protestant
  • However, Voudou influences daily life and society in important ways

Haiti’s Age Demographics

  • Young country: Median age is 21
  • Life expectancy at birth is 62

Haitian Economy

  • More than 2/3 of the workforce do not have formal jobs.
  • Remittances make up 20% of GDP and are greater than income from exports. (Remittances come from significant populations of Haitians and Haitian Americans in Miami, New York, and Boston, as well as Haitians in Canada, France, and other Caribbean nations)

History of Foreign Influences in Haiti

  • Haiti was colonized by the Spanish and then the French.
  • The United State occupied Haiti for about 2 decades starting 1915.
  • Since 2004, a UN Peacekeeping force has maintained a permanent presence (mostly Brazilian and Argentinean but other coalition countries as well – Paraguay, and famously now, Nepal which has been identified as the source of a Cholera outbreak in Haiti where previously Cholera was never known)
  • Since 2010, Haiti has a higher concentration of NGO’s per person than any other nation in the world

Haiti’s Official Languages: French and Creole.

  • French is spoken by about 5% of the population – it is often seen as a status symbol
  • Nearly all schooling is done in French
  • But Creole is spoken by 100% of Haitians

Haiti on All the Wrong Lists

  • Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
  • Regularly at the top of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Failed States Index
  • Regularly at the top of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index
  • Regularly at the top of “brain drain” lists as well (percentage of educated professionals leaving the country)
  • Over 90% deforested

The Positives In Haiti

  • Beautiful beaches – Cap Haitian in the North and Labadie which famously docks Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Jacmel in the South
  • Mineral wealth. Estimated in 2012 that $20B worth of gold, silver, and copper is in Haiti’s north hills
  • Historical Sites – Forts from the time of piracy in the Caribbean, La CitadelleLaferrière, and the ruins of the Henri Christophe’s palace Sans Souci in the north.
  • Haitian food & produce – tomatoes, avocadoes, mangos, coffee, rum
  • Music, art, oral tradition (proverbs), dance
  • Haitians are entrepreneurial and motivated. An eager work force.
  • There is a very high cultural value placed on education
  • As a society, Haiti is extremely welcoming, hospitable, kind, funny, resilient.

"HaitiHub gave me confidence. It felt good to know that I could get out of a sticky situation if I needed to." -Debbie W.

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