Haiti Travel Information

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Facts About Haiti

Background: One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. Over three decades of dictatorship followed by military rule ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE was elected president. Most of his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he was able to return to office in 1994 and oversee the installation of a close associate to the presidency in 1996. ARISTIDE won a second term as president in 2000, and took office early the following year.
Government type: elected government
Capital: Port-au-Prince
Currency: 1 gourde (G) = 100 centimes

Geography of Haiti

Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
Geographic coordinates: 19 00 N, 72 25 W
total: 27,750 sq km
land: 27,560 sq km
water: 190 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 275 km
border countries: Dominican Republic 275 km
Coastline: 1,771 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds
Terrain: mostly rough and mountainous
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m
Natural resources: bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 13%
permanent pastures: 18%
forests and woodland: 5%
other: 44% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October; occasional flooding and earthquakes; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues: extensive deforestation (much of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and used as fuel); soil erosion; inadequate supplies of potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban
Geography - note: shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

More Geography

People of Haiti

Although Haiti averages about 250 people per square kilometer (650 per sq. mi.). Its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. About two-thirds of the population live in rural areas.

French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business sector.

The state religion is Roman Catholicism, which most of the population professes. Some Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practices voudou (voodoo) traditions. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs coexisting with Christian faiths.

Although public education is free, private and parochial schools provide around 88% of educational programs offered, and less than 65% of those eligible for primary education are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to 15%. Only 63% of those enrolled will complete primary school. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs.

Largescale emigration, principally to the U.S.--but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and other Caribbean neighbors, and France--has created what Haitians refer to as the Tenth Department or the Diaspora. About one of every seven Haitians live abroad.

Population: 765,283 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  40.31% 
15-64 years:  55.52%
65 years and over:  4.17% 
Population growth rate: .26% 
Birth rate: 31.68 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 15 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -2.64 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 95.23 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  49.38 years
male:  47.67 years
female:  51.17 years 
Total fertility rate: 4.4 children born/woman 
noun: Haitian(s)
adjective: Haitian0
Ethnic groups: black 95%, mulatto plus white 5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3% (1982)
note: roughly one-half of the population also practices Voodoo
Languages: French (official), Creole (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 45%
male: 48%
female: 42.2% (1995 est.)

More about the Population

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Haiti > Map Economy History