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Did you know? Haiti defeated Napoleon's army and won its independence from France in 1804. One of Haiti's greatest heroes was Toussaint L'Ouverture, who was tricked by the French and taken prisoner to France where he eventually died.

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The 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. 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 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. A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 with an epicenter about 15 km southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince. An estimated 2 million people live within the zone of heavy to moderate structural damage. The earthquake is assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years.



Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic

Geography - note:

shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than Maryland


Tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds


mostly rough and mountainous

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



Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 60.78 years


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%
note: roughly half of the population practices Vodou


French (official), Creole (official)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52.9%


Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Haiti
conventional short form: Haiti
local short form: Haiti/Ayiti


name: Port-au-Prince


1 January 1804 (from France)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 1 January (1804)

Flag description:

two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a centered white rectangle bearing the coat of arms, which contains a palm tree flanked by flags and two cannons above a scroll bearing the motto L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE (Union Makes Strength); the colors are taken from the French Tricolor and represent the union of blacks and mulattoes


Economy - overview:

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. While the economy has recovered in recent years, registering positive growth since 2005, four tropical storms in 2008 severely damaged the transportation infrastructure and agricultural sector. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP and more than twice the earnings from exports. Haiti suffers from 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. Haiti received debt forgiveness for about $525 million of its debt through the Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative in 2009. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability.

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,300 (2009 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 28%
industry: 20%
services: 52% (2004 est.)

Population below poverty line:

80% (2003 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum; wood


sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, light assembly based on imported parts

Exports - commodities:

apparel, manufactures, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee

Exports - partners:

US 70%, Dominican Republic 8.8%, Canada 3% (2008)

Exchange rates:

gourdes (HTG) per US dollar - 41.366 (2009)


(Source: CIA Website)