BASIC HISTORY OF HAITI (REPUBLIQUE D’HAITI)

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is located 600 miles southeast of Florida. It occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, bordering the Dominican Republic to the east. It is separated from Cuba by the Windward Passage, a 50 mile corridor. It is the size of the state of Maryland and has a population of approximately 10 million people. The name Haiti derives from the word ayti or hayti meaning ‘high place’ or ‘mountainous’ in the indigenousTaino/Arawak Indian language. Haiti is divided into five mountain ranges which cover 60% of the country.

As the only black republic in the history of the world to be born of a slave revolution, Haiti won its independence in 1804, conquering Napoleon Bonaparte and his French colonial power. This victory was not without retribution from the ‘white’ colonial powers of the world who refused to accept that a ‘black people’ could rule themselves and participate on a level playing field in regards to trade, financial power, and political rights. As a result, Haiti was to suffer tremendous financial and political rejection and abuse from the worldly powers, greatly contributing to the present state of the country.

Over 94% of the people living in Haiti are of African origin with the rest being of African-European or other origin. Although the official languages of Haiti are French and Creole, few people speak to each other in French on a daily basis other than in government or religious institutions. About 90% of the population speaks only Haitian Creole. Since colonial times fluency in French has served as an indicator of social class.

Literacy is Haiti is just shy of 53%. Only about 40% of children are enrolled in primary school; this rate is higher in Port au Prince and lower in the rural areas. 50% of primary and secondary schools are private and the majority of these are Catholic schools. In the rural mountainous areas a tented area or a large tree often serves as a school.

Haiti is an agriculture state that has a rich history of producing coffee, corn, rice, sugarcane, and many fruits and vegetables. Prior to 1980, Haiti grew 80% of its food. As a result of foreign hand-outs and low import tariffs, the agricultural industry has been all but destroyed. Today, 2012, Haiti imports over 80% of its food needs. The majority of people living in the rural areas are subsistence farmers who work their small plots of land and are barely able to provide enough food to feed their families.

Infrastructure throughout Haiti is severely lacking in electricity, clean water, plumbing, sanitation, health care, education and roads, although some of the major roads that map Haiti have greatly improved over the past few years.  Corruption, abuse of power and misaligned foreign policy have left the public section severely lacking throughout all of Haiti, resulting in a republic of NGO’s and non-profits that often work closely with local churches, and who, for the most part, find it difficult to collaborate with government agencies due to their complexities.

The people of the Haiti are rich in beauty, culture and spirit. They are a strongly independent people who have persevered through decades of corrupt governments, violence, exploitation and abuse by the tiny elite class, foreign policy that has not served the Haitian people, misuse of global funds by NGO’s, and natural disasters that have left the country in desolation and dependency.

On January 12, 2010 a devastating earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.0, vibrated through Haiti, greatly affecting Port au Prince, with a population of over 2 million people, Carrefour, Jacmel and Leogane. It is estimated that more than people 250,000 people died, 300,000 more were injured and a million were left homeless as a result of the earthquake. More than 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged.

Millions and millions of dollars have been given to International Organizations and NGO’s with the avowed emphasis to rebuild Haiti by empowering the people with jobs, skills and education. Efforts have relocated 1000’s of people; providing them with funds to rent housing or return them to their native villages, however 1000’s of people still live in precarious camps and few of those relocated live in stable, permanent homes.

In October, a cholera epidemic broke out resulting in over 8000 deaths & over 400,000 Haitians sickened by the end of 2012. All evidence of the cause points to the Nepalese UN contingent stationed near Mirabalais, although the UN has refused to accept the responsibility. This disease will continue to plague Haiti for decades to come and is exacerbated during the rainy season. 

In January 2011, one year after the quake, Oxfam published a report on the status of the recovery. According to the report, relief and recovery were at a standstill due to government inaction and indecision on the part of the donor counties. The report stated, "One year on, only five percent of the rubble has been cleared and only 15 percent of the required basic and temporary houses have been built. House building on a large scale cannot be started before the enormous amount of rubble is cleared. The government and donors must prioritize this most basic step toward helping people return home. Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said "The dysfunction has been aided unabated by the way the international community has organized itself, where pledges have been made and they haven't followed through [and] where they come to the table with their own agendas and own priorities. Most donors provided funds for transitional housing but very little money for clearing rubble or repairing houses". More than 400,000 Haitian continue to live in tents as a result of the 2010 earthquake; in situations without adequate shelter, sanitation, clean water, proper schooling, health care and security.

A tropical storm and a global food shortage also left itheir marks on Haiti in 2010 and 2011 brought political riots and insecurity as the presidental election drew near. Michel Martelly, a popular musican, won the election after cries of corruption at the polls & influential pressure from abroad.

 

 

On August 25, 2012, Tropical Storm Isaac passed over the Haiti’s southern peninsula, causing flooding and at least 19 deaths with many others still missing.

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