With more than 77 % of the overall population in a state of poverty, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Located in the Caribbean, Haiti is often plagued by natural catastrophes that contribute to its current socioeconomic state. In a region where 60% of the food is imported, not enough crops are grown for the sustainability the livestock or the citizens. Hurricanes, floods, and climate disasters constantly threaten the condition of their food sources. Alongside the lack of food, the rapid population growth also leaves Haiti vulnerable to famines.
In 2008, four separate hurricanes left a trail of destruction through Haiti in a span of just 30 days. More than 800 individuals were killed, and approximately 60% of the entire country’s harvest was destroyed.
This string of climate disasters cost the country of Haiti over US$200 million in agricultural grievances alone, leaving one-third of the population in a state of famine. However, the hurricanes of 2008 were no isolated incident for Haiti. Since 1934, Haiti has experienced more than 11 natural disasters, ranging from tropical storms to earthquakes. These calamities have resulted in a total of 17,000 deaths.
The lack of infrastructure and proper emergency services has left this nation in despair. Usually, this is where foreign aid comes in, but with Haiti that was not always the case. For decades, political turmoil and instability have crippled the nation’s development. In recent years, the European Union’s humanitarian aid has been unable to reach those in need in Haiti. Political officials rejected the assistance, focusing more on the reelection that was at hand.
Rural areas, which are home to over half of Haiti’s entire population, equates for 88 percent of people being poor, with 67 percent being extremely poor. With so many odds against them, how does Haiti generate income?
One in five individuals are farmers, with agriculture and commerce employing over 85 percent of the rural populace. This alone cannot provide the income necessary to sustain life, however.
Extraction of sand, chalk and charcoal, as well as wage labor and small-scale trade also account for means of income to Haitian citizens. This nation is highly dependent upon minor entrepreneurial businesses for individual survival. In addition to independent trades, remittances are essential to the livelihood of many Haitians. Remittances account for 15 percent of total income in a nation with a populace just shy of 10 million.
A drastic gap between the rich and the poor is evident, in Haiti. According to Rural Poverty Portal, the underprivileged 40 percent of the population has access to less than 6 percent of the country’s entire income. In contrast, the richest 2 percent of Haiti’s citizens control 26 percent of the national wealth. The poor are getting poorer, and statistics are making it obvious.
A lack of infrastructure, low education, limited social capital, political instability and minimal access to credit all attribute to the deterioration of Haiti’s economy. The inequality of access to inputs such as tools, water, feasible land and worldly knowledge has also been argued to hinder the growth of Haiti.
Since Haiti’s most recent natural disaster in 2010, the country has received over 1.2 billion euros in aid. Although the relief is being accepted and slight progress is being made, it is still a common worry that another disaster will strike, leaving Haiti in a similar, or worse, predicament.
– Samaria Garrett