Facts about Haiti

World Facts Index

HaitiThe native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by COLUMBUS in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.

Geography of Haiti

Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
19 00 N, 72 25 W
total: 27,750 sq km
land: 27,560 sq km
water: 190 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries:
total: 360 km
border countries: Dominican Republic 360 km
1,771 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds
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
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
Geography - note:
shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

More Geography

Population of Haiti

8,924,553 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 42.4% (male 1,770,523/female 1,749,853)
15-64 years: 54.2% (male 2,201,957/female 2,301,886)
65 years and over: 3.4% (male 125,298/female 158,987)
Median age:
18.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
71.65 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.23 years
male: 51.89 years
female: 54.6 years
Fertility rate:
4.94 children born/woman
noun: Haitian(s)
adjective: Haitian
Ethnic groups:
black 95%, mulatto and white 5%
Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3% (1982)
note: roughly half of the population practices Voodoo
French (official), Creole (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52.9%
male: 54.8%
female: 51.2% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Haiti
local long form: Republique d'Haiti
Government type:
elected government
Administrative divisions:
9 departments (departements, singular - departement); Artibonite, Centre, Grand 'Anse, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, Sud-Est
1 January 1804 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 1 January (1804)
approved March 1987; suspended June 1988 with most articles reinstated March 1989; constitutional government ousted in a military coup in September 1991, although in October 1991, military government claimed to be observing the constitution; returned to constitutional rule in October 1994; constitution remains technically in force but has not been observed since Aristide's departure in 2004.
Legal system:
based on Roman civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Rene PREVAL (since 14 May 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Michele PIERRE-LOUIS (since 5 September 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister in consultation with the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held 7 February 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president, ratified by the National Assembly.
Legislative branch:
bicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale consists of the Senate (30 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms; one-third elected every two years) and the Chamber of Deputies (99 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms); note - in reestablishing the Senate, the candidate in each department receiving the most votes in the last election serves six years, the candidate with the second most votes serves four years, and the candidate with the third most votes serves two years.
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour de Cassation


Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation. A macroeconomic program developed in 2005 with the help of the International Monetary Fund helped the economy grow 3.5% in 2007, the highest growth rate since 1999. US economic engagement under the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, passed in December 2006, has boosted the garment and automotive parts exports and investment by providing tariff-free access to the US. Haiti suffers from high inflation, a lack of investment because of insecurity and limited infrastructure, and a severe trade deficit. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP and more than twice the earnings from exports.

$11.38 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 28%
industry: 20%
services: 52%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
3.6 million
note: shortage of skilled labor, unskilled labor abundant 
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 66%
industry: 9%
services: 25%
widespread unemployment and underemployment; more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs 
revenues: $400 million
expenditures: $600.8 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 60.3%
hydro: 39.7%
other: 0%
sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, light assembly industries based on imported parts
coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum, wood
manufactures, coffee, oils, cocoa
Export partners:
US 81.4%, Dominican Republic 7.3%, Canada 4%
food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, raw materials
Import partners:
US 49.4%, Netherlands Antilles 12.6%, Malaysia 3.6%
gourde (HTG)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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