Surface area: 27.750 km²
Number of inhabitants: 10 million
Language: French, Creole
Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Voodoo
Currency: Haitian Gourde
Form of government: semi-presidential republic
Haiti has a score of 0.493 on the Human Development Index (HDI). The score is compiled of numbers related to life expectancy, education and per capita income. Once classified in numbers, this number is used to rank countries in four levels of human development. The higher these factors, the higher the index number. Haiti ranks number 163 out of the 186 countries worldwide. The average number of years of education is nine. To improve the quality of education, the Salvation Army runs 48 schools across the country. Haiti is rich in agriculture and industrial resources. However, communication and mobility have not been developed efficiently yet. Just over 10% of the population has daily access to the Internet. (source: UNDP)
History and Politics
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola, the island, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At that time the island was inhabited by the Taíno Indians. In the following decades they nearly all died as a result of forced labor and diseases transmitted by the Spanish settlers. From 1600 onwards, thousands of slaves were shipped from Africa to Haiti to work on the sugar- and coffee plantations. In 1697, the control of the island went from Spain to France which renamed it Saint-Domingue. The island became one of the most prosperous colonial possessions in Europe and therefor became known as The Pearl of the Antilles. In 1791 the Haitian Revolution broke out. The population, led by Toussaint Louverture, rebelled against the French regime. On 1 January 1804 the island became independent from France and Saint-Domingue was renamed Haiti. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who in 1804 had replaced Louverture as leader of the rebels, became Emperor Jacob I of Haiti. Out of hatred against the French, he ordered the killing of all the whites present in Haiti and legally determined that foreigners were not allowed to possess land. The white part was also removed from the flag, which is how the current flag of Haiti was created. The time between 1843 and 1915 was marked by coup attempts, political unrest and economic instability. The country sank into poverty, exports declined and the plantations disappeared. In 1915 the United States occupied Haiti to protect their economic interests in the country. The Americans left in 1934. Between 1957 and 1986 the country was ruled by François Duvalier and his son. Both regimes brought bloodshed to Haiti. Around 50.000 Haitians were murdered in the 28 years that the Duvaliers were in power. In 1986, the dictatorship came to an end and military coups followed. After a democratic vote, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in 1991. After he was deposed by a military coup, the United States of America and the United Nations helped him to regain power. However, it did not take long until the Aristide regime also turned to corruption. The president was flown out of the country by the United States. In 2006 René Préval was elected president, which was the start of a somewhat quieter period. The current president of Haiti is Jocelerme Privert. He holds the office until the re-promised elections.
From the time René Préval was elected president, Haiti experienced economic growth. In January 2010, Haiti was hit by an earthquake that killed 300.000 people. The economy also got a major setback. There is a huge inequality in Haiti. The richest 10% of the population has access to half of the GNI. Trade and tourism are the most important sources of income.
Haiti has two national languages: French and Haitian Creole. The native language of the Haitians is Creole. Only those who have had sufficient education speak French. Painting is emerging as far as the arts are concerned. Sen Soley’s paintings, that are inspired by voodoo, are known worldwide. However, painting is particularly visible on the street through the painted tap-tap busses, trucks and walls. Voodoo is the most important religion in Haiti. Music plays an important role, also during religious ceremonies. Kompa is the best-known music genre in Haiti and is a variant on the meringue.