NI Global Issues for Learners of English > Country profiles > Haiti



Haiti flag

Map of Haiti

Location of Haiti

Area of Haiti: 27,750 square kilometers

Haiti is in the Caribbean Sea. It shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic (the western third is Haiti, the eastern two-thirds are the Dominican Republic)

Information at a Glance


Population: 6.5 million
Black 95%, mulatto (mixed race) and European 5%.
Nearly everyone is a descendant of African slaves brought to Haiti in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Religions: Roman Catholic 80% (of which most also practice Voodoo - a mixture of Christian and African beliefs), Protestant 16%, none 1%, other 3%


Currency: 1 gourde (G) = 100 centimes
Main Industries: Coffee is the main export product. sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, tourism, light assembly industries based on imported parts, sports equipment (to US market)
External Debt per capita: $102
Debt Service: 11% of exports


Life expectancy: 57 years (Compared with an average of 75 years throughout the Caribbean
Infant mortality: 107.5 deaths per 1000
Average calories consumed: 85% of calories needed
Safe water: 28% of population has access


Dependent on food aid and flooded by contraband, Haiti is losing its food supply to environmental degradation.


Languages: French (10%), Haitian Creole (90%) Haitian Creole is a local language that combines elements from African languages with elements from French and Spanish.

Income Distribution

A tiny elite dominates, with only a small middle class of civil servants and professionals. Over 75% of people live in poverty.


Because of the need for firewood and charcoal, most of the forests have been cut down. These forests were not replaced. This has led to severe soil erosion. Much of the remaining forest is being cut down for agriculture.The quality of the soil is getting worse. There is not enough drinkable water.


Political violence has troubled Haiti throughout its history. Years of dictatorship or military rule ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE was elected president. A military takeover soon took him out of power, but he was able to return to office in 1994 and in 1996 a colleague of his - Rene Garcia PREVAL - came to the presidency. The Préval Government has not done the reforms that are necessary. Aristide¹s return is seen as inevitable but it remains to be seen whether he will deal with the extreme inequalities.

Freedom & human rights

Much improved since 1994 US/UN intervention, but political killings and police brutality are widely reported.

Position of women: Individual women have recently made progress in politics and the professions.

Sources: The World Guide, Leading Issues in Economic Development 7th edition by Meier and Rauch, The New Internationalist

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Last modified 10 November 2000

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