The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti reveal a domino-effect of massive natural disasters, fragile health care infrastructure and low access to preventative care in a country where half of the population lives in extreme poverty. On the bright side, poverty rates have improved and can continue to uplift if aid focuses on establishing long-term preventative care facilities and the government can effectively communicate with programs to meet needs. With the improvements in poverty rates and health care, life expectancy will consequentially improve.
Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti
- The life expectancy in Haiti is 63.5 years, lower than that of its neighbors Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Female are projected to live longer with the life expectancy of 65.7 years while men are expected to live 61.3 years on average. The country’s population consists of 10.98 million people. The healthy life expectancy is alarmingly low, standing at only 44 years.
- More than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, categorized as suffering from extreme poverty. A $2 daily budget allows little to no room for medicine, preventative care, hospitals or emergency clinics.
- The country has also seen various improvements over the last 30 years, as 1970 saw life expectancy rates that were as low as 47 years.
- The child mortality rate drastically improved since 1960 when it hovered around 249 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today’s rate of 71.7 deaths per 1,000 live births means care access for infants and children with complications or illnesses still needs to advance.
- On 12 January 2010, earthquake disintegrated medical and treatment facilities in Port-au-Prince within seconds. The magnitude 7 earthquake, powerful enough to destroy most of the city, put the medical system back to the most rudimentary stage with few facilities and overloaded the hospitals with the wounded people. Between 46,000 and 300,000 Haitians died and most areas were forced to wait for Doctors without Borders humanitarian aid for over a month due to the critical devastation of roads and airports.
- The country never had proper funds to establish a secure health care infrastructure amidst a crushing sequence of natural disasters. Quick and accessible care often spells the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, Haitian clinics that would have saved lives were destroyed in the earthquake. Of course, aid can never replace a health care system. Many international organizations partner with the country to provide health care access and immediate care. Plenty International, whose past and ongoing projects in Haiti include partnering with Haitian clinics, channeling medicine and supplies, including water sanitation tablets and offering Haitian midwives training in Home Based Life-Saving Skills, interventions that save women and children’s lives, is one of those organizations.
- After the 2010 earthquake, cases of cholera developed from unsanitary water conditions and lack of health care. By 2016, this disease had sickened 770,000 people and the U.N. promised to bring in funding to compensate the families of the deceased and ill. Cholera is not the only concern as Haiti suffers the highest percentages of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean at approximately 150,000 cases in 2016. Around 55 percent of the sufferers had access to antiretroviral treatment, an improved rate from 2010 when there were 10 percent more HIV-caused deaths. Progress shows up in malnutrition rates as well, as the number of undernourished children dropped significantly from 2006 to 2012 due to the government ramping up programs. As of May 2012, services included 285 outpatient programs, 16 inpatient stabilization units for severely affected children, 174 baby feeding tents and 350 supplementary nutrition programs.
- Annual per capita expenditure for health care is a stark $13. In comparison, this number is $180 in the Dominican Republic. After the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose presidency was toppled in 2004, the health care budget took a hefty slash. Hopefully, as Haiti strives to create more sustainability in its health care infrastructure, the current government administration will prioritize preventative care and have the ability to increase the budget.
- Habitat for Humanity, responding to the need for structures and sustainable living situations after the earthquake, organized Pathways to Permanence, developing urban areas and teaching about land rights and finances. Their HOME program also provides access to long-term financing to reduce the housing deficit. They have helped rebuild the district Simon-Pelé, north of capital Port-au-Prince, whose former structures were predominately self-built. The organization also partnered with the community to provide water and sanitation projects and vocational training for adults.
- Text message donations from all over the U.S. brought immediate funding for disaster relief. A nongovernmental organization named Innovating Health International (IHI) combines community-oriented disease research, collaboration with local perspectives and prevention awareness to treat women with a range of chronic illnesses. IHI is carrying out the widest-reading study of chronic disease in a low-income country in the world.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti highlight the hard road ahead to establish a sustainable infrastructure to address the country’s health care needs. Part of the struggle lies with its need for disaster-relief programs, many of which operated mainly to bring emergency care. As Haiti stabilizes its economic and employment rates, and more citizens can afford or be provided with preventative care, the crisis will decelerate. However, the economic, political, and health-care infrastructure all require stabilizing and the continued partnering of foreign aid for the country to progress to a more sustainable future.
– Hannah Peterson