The 2020 Human Development Index ranked Haiti 170th out of 189 countries. Between the devastating earthquake in 2010, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the current COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti struggles to make lasting improvements. To combat its history of extreme poverty, Haiti adopted the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. This article will break down everything you need to know about poverty in Haiti through the lens of some of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
SDG 1: No Poverty
Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.
- The Issue: As much as 60% of the population (equating to more than six million people) lives below the poverty line in Haiti. Even more concerning, nearly 2.5 million of Haitians live below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.
- The Progress: Haiti has taken small steps toward poverty reduction. The number of citizens living in extreme poverty in Haiti decreased by 7% between 2000 and 2012. However, natural disasters and other crises continue to undermine this progress.
SDG 2: Zero Hunger
Haiti suffers from one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world.
- The Issue: At least 44% of Haitians (more than four million people) need immediate food assistance, 1.2 million suffer from extreme hunger and 22% of children live with chronic malnutrition, making this one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
- The Progress: The World Food Programme (WFP) works to “build sustainable systems to address the root causes of food insecurity and promote resiliency.” In the last academic year, the WFP’s school feeding program provided daily hot meals for about 300,000 children at 1,000 different public schools. In 2016, Haiti signed its first national school feeding policy, requiring schools to make nutritious foods available for their students.
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
The life expectancy in Haiti is staggering low and far behind the rest of the world at only 63 years old.
- The Issue: For every 100,000 live births, nearly 500 mothers die during childbirth. For every 1,000 live births, 62.8 children are expected to die before reaching the age of 5. In 2016, about 150,000 Haitians were living with HIV.
- The Progress: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened an office in Haiti in 2002. The CDC’s impact in Haiti increased HIV testing to 98% for all pregnant women who visited health facilities. Haiti now boasts one of the highest tuberculosis treatment success rates in Latin America and the Caribbean at 82%. Additionally, the Haiti Animal Surveillance Program decreased the likelihood of dying from rabies by 60%.
SDG 4: Quality Education
The average Haitian 25 years or older has completed less than five years of school.
- The Issue: Illiteracy plagues nearly 40% of the adult population. Approximately 75% of teachers do not have any training or credentials. Most Haitian children spend less than four years in school and 35% of them never learn to read.
- The Progress: Between 1993 and 2011, the net enrollment rate rose from 47% to 88%. The United States Agency for International Development has spearheaded several academic initiatives to combat poverty in Haiti with the goal of providing internationally-approved reading curricula to 28,000 children and 900 teachers.
SDG 5: Gender Equality
Women face inequality every day in social, political and economic spheres.
- The Issue: Gender-based violence (GBV) rates are extremely high in Haiti. At least one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Rape only recently became a punishable offense in 2005, however, spousal rape is still not recognized as a crime.
- The Progress: USAID seeks to increase female empowerment through economic opportunities. Some 53% of the 27,000 jobs created through USAID programs benefited women. Women also receive about 43% of Homeownership and Mortgage Expansion Program housing loans. In 2019, USAID announced its Building Enduring Systems To End Trafficking in Persons project, which intends to create a GBV-free Haitian society.
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Poor water and sanitation are the root causes of neglected tropical disease outbreaks.
- The Issue: Only 65% of Haiti’s population can access clean water. Furthermore, only 35% of the population has access to basic sanitation.
- The Progress: Sanitation improvements have eliminated cholera in Haiti, with no new cases since February 2019. By 2022, USAID plans to provide basic sanitation to 75,000 Haitians and clean water access to 250,000 people.
SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
Poverty in Haiti is not evenly distributed. Haiti suffers some of the greatest wealth disparities in Latin America.
- The Issue: Between 2000 and 2012, extreme poverty in Haiti decreased from 31% to 24% in cities and urban areas, however, there was no change in rural areas. More than 64% of the total wealth is held by the wealthiest 20% of the population, while the most impoverished 20% struggle to hold 1%.
- The Progress: Major challenges still remain for Haiti. However, the wealth gap is slowly closing. Haiti’s Gini coefficient (a standard measure of economic inequality) decreased by almost 20 points between 2015 and 2017.
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Haiti ranks fourth among the countries most affected by extreme weather events.
- The Issue: In the last 20 years, Haiti lost 17.5% of its GDP annually due to natural disasters, making sustainable cities and communities one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
- The Progress: The recurring natural disasters in Haiti further exacerbate the economic and political struggles and disparities. To create a more resilient nation, Haiti adopted the National Risk and Disaster Management Plan 2019-2030. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of several projects.
Haiti has undoubtedly experienced more success in some areas than others. The nation must overcome major challenges to meet Haiti’s most important SDGs by 2030. Although the country still has a long way to go, Haiti is making significant progress for a nation plagued by natural disasters, uncertainty and instability.
– Ella LeRoy