Learn more about specific causes in Haiti that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentHaiti is currently experiencing extreme environmental and ecological vulnerability. Deforestation is a major cause of poverty due to soil degradation, decreased agricultural outputs and farming incomes, and increased water scarcity and malnutrition rates.1 The soil erosion caused by deforestation also contributes to a higher rate of landslides, which destroy crops, infrastructure, and populations. Moreover, Haiti’s tropical climate and geographical location between fault lines increases the frequency of hurricanes and tropical depressions. Despite its environmental vulnerability, Haiti has a poor disaster relief response system due to limited funding, general disorganization, and lack of authoritative power that has the capabilities of creating a response system.2
Human RightsHaiti’s human rights record is very poor and includes politically-motivated kidnappings and killings, torture, and unlawful incarceration. Many prisoners are held without trial, and some remain incarcerated after their sentence has expired. Additionally, the prisons in Haiti are severely overcrowded, sometimes with as many as 38 prisoners kept in a cell meant to hold eight. Overcrowding in prisons has contributed to mass outbreaks of cholera and tuberculosis, causing a sharp spike in prisoner deaths in recent years and drawing in the issue of people’s right to proper healthcare.1 The criminal justice process is also corrupt, and lawyers are often bribed or threatened when representing clients in controversial cases.2 Furthermore, police forces in Haiti are in desperate need of reform as frequent evidence of mistreatment of Read More detainees has been found.3 Show Less
EducationThe quality of education in Haiti is very poor, and the country has an adult literacy rate of 60.7%.1 The Ministry of Education provides little funding or support for the education system, which creates barriers to providing quality education to Haitians. A study by USAID revealed that nearly half of students could not read at all after completing second grade. Around 85% of schools in Haiti are funded internationally, mainly by NGOs. Nearly 80% of teachers have no previous training before entering the classroom. The enrollment rate is roughly 75% for primary education, and a majority of Haitians over the age of 25 has only 5 years of schooling.2
PovertyHaiti is the 209th poorest of 230 countries ranked by the CIA World Factbook, with a per capita income of $1,800. More than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs.1 Significant correlation is found between low incomes and low levels of education, and severe income disparity also contributes to unequal access to tools, resources, property, and education that could help lift families out of poverty. Public disorder, inefficient government spending, and an ineffective health care system also perpetuate the cycle of poverty.2 The unemployment rate in Haiti is very high at 40%, and nearly 60% of the population lives below the poverty line.3
ReligionMost Haitians consider themselves to be religious. 54.7% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, although there are a growing number of Protestants in the country. In addition, many Haitians believe in elements of Voodoo.1 Voodoo in Haitian culture developed from African influences, combining a mixture of animism with Catholicism and other religious traditions. Conflict has arisen and continues to be an issue between those who practice Voodoo and Protestant Christians within the country.2 The remaining religious demographics of Haiti are 28.5% Protestant and 2.1% Voodoo.3
Clean WaterLess than 1% of Haiti’s natural water resources are currently being used. Furthermore, only 58% of Haitians have access to improved water sources, and 27% have access to improved sanitation facilities.1 Several clean groundwater resources exist in the mountains of Haiti, but its citizens lack the resources and equipment necessary to tap into this water supply. 2 The country is still fighting a Cholera outbreak believed to have been brought in by UN peacekeepers in 2010. The strain is spread mainly by contaminated water.3
EconomyIn recent years, Haiti’s economy has seen marginal improvement. Attempted reforms and improvements to business and investment programs are often undermined when put into practice, due to widespread corruption. Haiti’s judicial system is inefficient and slows economic progress even further. The absence of a stable government system ever since February 2016 has complicated efforts to improve the economy.1 The public debt is 33% of the GDP. A climate of political volatility threatens citizens’ overall security by causing economic fluctuations and by inhibiting foreign trade and investment. One unique aspect of the Haitian economy is the tariff-free access to US markets for the majority of their exports, 80% of Haitian exports go to the United States. Natural disasters continue to be a major deterrent towards Read More sustainable economic growth. The unemployment rate in Haiti is 40%, and nearly 59% of the population lives below the poverty line.2 Show Less
GovernmentHaiti’s government can be classified as a semi-presidential republic with a multi-party system. The president is the head of state and is elected by popular vote. Haiti’s government and political sphere have long been tainted by corruption.1 Haiti is ranked 159 out of 176 countries included in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The Haitian public scores their government 20 out of 100 for general corruption perceived in government.2 In Haitian culture, disagreeing with elected officials is viewed as disloyalty, and giving unrestrained power to the heads of state is considered to be an act of patriotism. Often in Haiti, the more popular the president, the more freedom they are given to violate common law.3
HealthDeficient sanitation systems, poor nutrition, and inadequate health care systems have all contributed to the poor overall health of Haiti’s citizens. The World Health Organization has estimated that less than half of the population receives recommended immunizations, putting Haitians at a high risk for contracting preventable diseases.1 22% of children show signs of stunted growth due to malnutrition. The government spends 6% of the GDP on healthcare. There are as few as 6 trained medical physicians for each 10,000 people.2 Structural inadequacies from the 2010 earthquake, such as lack of access to electricity and clean water infrastructures, limit the effectiveness of the healthcare system. The HIV/AIDS rates dropped by nearly 70% between 2005 and 2016.3 Life expectancy in Haiti is 64. Infant mortality is Read More 46.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The median maternal age for a first birth is 22 years old. Maternal mortality rates are 359 deaths per 100,000 live births, the 33rd highest in the world.4 Show Less
ChildrenHaiti’s children are the most vulnerable to suffering from starvation and poverty from natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.1 The orphanages and child care facilities in Haiti are overcrowded and are often unable to adequately provide for the needs of the large number of children who need care. Along with food and shelter, Haiti’s displaced children also lack basic education, play opportunities, medical care, legal advocacy, and counseling.2 In 2016, the infant mortality rate in Haiti (47 deaths per 1,000 live births) was the highest in the Western hemisphere, although the percentage is slowly improving. Only 37% of births occur with a trained medic present.3
FamilyThere is a strong correlation between poverty and a lack of family planning in Haiti.1 Full responsibility of childcare falls almost exclusively on women, making impoverished women with multiple children some of the lowest members on the socioeconomic scale. Poor women with children are also least likely to be hired, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.2 Gender based violence remains a problem in society that is only exacerbated by the extreme poverty.3 There is a movement currently advocating the necessity of creating more accessible contraceptives. It is estimated that nearly 35% of sexually active women want and do not have access to contraceptives.4 18% of children are married by the time they reach the age of 18.5
AnimalsThe neotropical region that ecompasses Haiti and the Dominican Republic is home to many native plant and animal species. Among these are the sandpaper tree, sand grape, and cashew plants. Animals that frequent the island are the parakeet, Hispaniolan parrot, palm crow, and red-tail hawk. Illegal forestry operations and migratory agricultural expansion are two of the main threats to animal life that the World Wildlife Fund identifies.1
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