Geography - Haiti occupies the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, sharing a border with the Dominican Republic. It sits about 700 miles southeast of Miami and occupies an area just slightly smaller than the state of Maryland (total: 27,750 sq.km).
Capital - Port-au-Prince
Government: Haiti is a republic with a president serving as the nation’s head of state. The president selects a prime minister to serve as the head of the government. A parliament called the National Assembly makes the nation’s laws. The National Assembly is composed of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
President:Jocelerme Privert (interim)
Climate - Being a tropical climate, Haiti is hot and humid during most months of the year. Some areas of the country, however, can be almost desert-like and dry where the mountains cut off the trade winds.
Terrain and Environmental Issues - Most of Haiti is rugged and mountainous. Mass deforestation and poor environmental controls have left large areas of the country bare and contributed to large-scale loss of topsoil. Much of the remaining forested land is being cleared and used as fuel.
Natural Hazards - Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October. In 2010, Haiti experienced a magnitude 7 earthquake.
Population - In 2014, it was estimated that 9.9 million people live in Haiti. Haiti has a very large young population, in part because of a high birthrate and shorter life expectancies. (37% of Haitians are younger than 14 years old; 59% are between 15 and 64 years old; and, just 3% are 65 and older. The population is 95% black and 5% white and mulatto (mixed race).
Poverty - Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. More than 60% of the population is estimated to live below the poverty level. More than 40% of the population is unemployed.
Exports – Haiti’s main exports are apparel, oils, cocoa, mangoes and coffee.
Languages - Haitian Creole, French
Religion - Roughly 80 percent of Haitians are Roman Catholic, while fewer than one in five claims to be Protestant. Roughly half of the Haitian population – regardless of religious affiliation – practice some Voodoo beliefs or superstitions.
Foods - The Haitian diet is made up of the local vegetables and fruits (sweet potatoes, manioc, yams, corn, rice, pigeon peas, cowpeas, bread, and coffee) along with some spicy meat dishes. Chicken, pork, beef, goat, and a variety of seafood are some of the most traditional meats served in Haiti. Important treats include sugarcane, mangoes, sweetbread, peanut and sesame seed clusters made from melted brown sugar, and candies made from bitter manioc flour.
Major holidays in Haiti - Independence Day (January 1st),
Forefather’s Day (January 2nd),
Carnaval (2 days before Ash Wednesday, February or March),
Good Friday (2 days before Easter),
Easter Sunday (usually in April),
Toussaint Louverture’s Death (April 7th),
Pan American Day (April 14th),
Labor Day (May 1st),
Flag Day (May 18),
Day of Assumption (August 15th),
Dessalines’ Death (October 17th),
All Saints Day (November 1st),
All Souls Day (November 2nd),
Battle of Vertieres’ Day (November 18th),
Christmas Eve (December 24th),
Christmas (December 25th),
New Year’s Eve (December 31st).
Compiled from the following sources:
CIA World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html
Every Culture, http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Haiti.html
Mission of Hope, Haiti - http://www.mohhaiti.org/about_haiti#.VP9NZ_nF-3E
A Chronology of Key Events in the History of Haiti
1492 - Christopher Columbus lands and names the island Hispaniola, or Little Spain.
1496 - Spanish establish first European settlement in western hemisphere at Santo Domingo, now capital of Dominican Republic.
1697 - Spain cedes western part of Hispaniola to France, and this becomes Haiti, or Land of Mountains.
1801 - A former black slave who became a guerrilla leader, Toussaint Louverture, conquers Haiti, abolishing slavery and proclaiming himself governor-general of an autonomous government over all Hispaniola.
1802 - French force led by Napoleon's brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc, fails to conquer Haitian interior.
Independence 1804 - Haiti becomes independent; former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines declares himself emperor.
1806 - Dessalines assassinated and Haiti divided into a black-controlled north and a mulatto-ruled south
1818-43 - Pierre Boyer unifies Haiti, but excludes blacks from power.
1915 - US invades Haiti following black-mulatto friction, which it thought endangered its property and investments in the country.
1934 - US withdraws troops from Haiti, but maintains fiscal control until 1947.
Duvalier Dictatorships 1956 - Voodoo physician Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier seizes power in military coup and is elected president a year later.
1964 - Duvalier declares himself president-for-life and establishes a dictatorship with the help of the Tontons Macoutes militia.
1971 - Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude, or "Baby Doc", who also declares himself president-for-life.
1986 - Baby Doc flees Haiti in the wake of mounting popular discontent and is replaced by Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy as head of a governing council.
1988 - Leslie Manigat becomes president, but is ousted in a coup led by Brigadier-General Prosper Avril, who installs a civilian government under military control.
Democracy, Coup and Intervention 1990 - Jean-Bertrand Aristide elected president in Haiti's first free and peaceful polls.
1991 - Aristide ousted in a coup led by Brigadier-General Raoul Cedras, triggering sanctions by the US and the Organization of American States.
1994 - Military regime relinquishes power in the face of an imminent US invasion; US forces oversee a transition to a civilian government; Aristide returns.
1995 - UN peacekeepers begin to replace US troops; Aristide supporters win parliamentary elections
Rene Preval, from Aristide's Lavalas party, is elected in December to replace Aristide as president.
1997-99 - Serious political deadlock; new government named.
1999 - Preval declares that parliament's term has expired and begins ruling by decree following a series of disagreements with deputies.
Aristide's Second Term 2000 November - Aristide elected president for a second non-consecutive term, amid allegations of irregularities.
2001 July - Presidential spokesman accuses former army officers of trying to overthrow the government after armed men attack three locations, killing four police officers.
2001 December - 30 armed men try to seize the National Palace in an apparent coup attempt; 12 people are killed in the raid, which the government blames on former army members.
2002 July - Haiti is approved as a full member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) trade bloc.
2003 April - Voodoo recognized as a religion, on a par with other faiths.
2004 January-February - Celebrations marking 200 years of independence turn into uprising against President Aristide, who is forced into exile. An interim government takes over.
2004 May - Severe floods in south, and in parts of neighboring Dominican Republic, leave more than 2,000 dead or disappeared.
2004 June - First UN peacekeepers arrive, to take over security duties from US-led force and to help flood survivors.
2004 July - International donors pledge more than $1bn in aid.
2004 September - Nearly 3,000 killed in flooding in the north, in the wake of tropical storm Jeanne.
Late 2004 - Rising levels of deadly political and gang violence in the capital; armed gangs loyal to former President Aristide are said to be responsible for many killings.
2005 April - Prominent rebel leader Ravix Remissainthe is killed by police in the capital.
2005 July - Hurricane Dennis kills at least 45 people.
2006 February - General elections, the first since former President Aristide was overthrown in 2004. Rene Preval is declared the winner of the presidential vote after a deal is reached over spoiled ballot papers.
2006 June - A democratically-elected government headed by Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis takes office.
2006 September - Launch of a UN-run scheme to disarm gang members in return for grants, job training.
2006 October - US partially lifts an arms embargo, imposed in 1991.
2007 January - UN troops launch tough new offensive against armed gangs in Cite Soleil, one of the capital's largest and most violent shantytowns.
2008 April - Food riots. Government announces emergency plan to cut price of rice in bid to halt unrest. Parliament dismisses Prime Minister Alexis.
2008 May - US and World Bank announce extra food aid totaling 30m dollars.
In response to plea from President Preval for more police to help combat wave of kidnappings-for-ransom, Brazil agrees to boost its peacekeeping force.
Tropical Storms 2008 August/September - Nearly 800 people are killed and hundreds are left injured as Haiti is hit by a series of devastating storms and hurricanes.
2008 September - Michele Pierre-Louis succeeds Jacques-Edouard Alexis as prime minister.
2009 May - Former US President Bill Clinton appointed UN special envoy to Haiti.
2009 July - World Bank and International Monetary Fund cancel $1.2bn of Haiti's debt - 80% of the total - after judging it to have fulfilled economic reform and poverty reduction conditions.
2009 October-November - Jean-Max Bellerive becomes prime minister after the Senate passes censure motion against his predecessor, Michelle Pierre-Louis.
2010 January - Up to 300,000 people are killed when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hits the capital Port-au-Prince and its wider region - the worst in Haiti in 200 years.
US takes control of the main airport to ensure orderly arrival of aid flights.
2010 March - International donors pledge $5.3 billion for post-quake reconstruction at a donor conference at UN headquarters.
2010 July - Popular anger grows over slow pace of reconstruction six months after quake.
2010 October - Run-up to presidential, parliamentary polls due on 28 November. Concern over exclusion of popular candidates.
Protests 2010 October-December - Cholera outbreak claims some 3,500 lives and triggers violent protests. The source of the outbreak is thought to be a camp for recently-arrived UN soldiers.
2010 November - Presidential and parliamentary elections.
2010 December - Announcement of inconclusive provisional results of presidential election triggers violent protests.
2011 January - Former president Jean-Claude Duvalier returns from exile, faces corruption and human rights abuse charges.
2011 March - Michel Martelly wins second round of presidential election.
2011 July - Death toll from cholera outbreak climbs to nearly 6,000.
2011 October - President Martelly appoints UN development expert Garry Conille as his prime minister, after parliament rejected his two previous nominees.
2012 January - Presidential Martelly proposes reviving Haiti's army, which was disbanded in 1995 because of its role in coups and its history of human rights abuses.
2012 February - Prime Minister Garry Conille resigns in protest at the refusal of many of his ministers and the presidential administration to cooperate with a parliamentary inquiry into dual citizenship among senior officials.
2012 May - Parliament approves Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe as prime minister.
2012 October - Hundreds protest against the high cost of living and call for the resignation of President Martelly. They accuse the president of corruption and failure to deliver on his promises to alleviate poverty.
2012 November - Hurricane Sandy causes extensive crop damage and leaves at least 20,000 people homeless, exacerbating the cholera epidemic.
2013 May - Thousands of people turn out for ex-president Aristide's first public appearance since his return from exile two years previously. He gives evidence in a court case.
2013 October - Lawyers representing victims of a cholera epidemic in Haiti file a lawsuit against the United Nations at a court in New York. They say UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti in 2010.
2013 November/December - Street protests in Port-au-Prince and other major cities, with marchers voicing discontent about various issues including an overdue election, unemployment and corruption.
2014 April - New wave of anti-government protests begins in Port-au-Prince.
2014 December - Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigns over failure to reach agreement with opposition over delayed elections, amid escalating street protests.
January 9, 2015 - A U.S. federal judge in Manhattan rules that the Haitian victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak cannot sue the United Nations, as the U.N. has legal immunity.
January 16, 2015 - Former Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul is sworn-in as prime minister.
January 22, 2016 - The presidential election is canceled indefinitely due to alleged fraud, threats and widespread protests.
February 7, 2016 - After five years in office, President Michel Martelly steps down, leaving Haiti with no successor after elections marred by allegations of fraud were postponed twice. Under the terms of an agreement for a transitional government, Haiti's parliament will elect an interim president for a term of 120 days and confirm a consensus prime minister.
February 14, 2016 - The Haitian Parliament elects a new interim president, former head of Parliament Jocelerme Privert.
Sources: BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19548814; and
Haitian Flag Day, May 18th The Haitian flag was created on May 18th, 1803, in the town of Arcahaie, during a congress held in the midst of the country’s war for independence. Haiti had been a colony of France since 1697, but the people rebelled in 1803 and Haiti achieved independence on January 1, 1804. In Haiti, Flag Day is a major national holiday celebrated with great fanfare on the grounds of the national palace and all cities in the country.
By removing the middle white stripe of the French tricolor flag, symbolizing European domination, and stitching together the remaining red and blue stripes, representing Haiti’s black and interracial citizens, the flag came to embody the nation’s spirit of freedom, unity, and individual liberty.
For state occasions, the Arms of Haiti are added to the center of the flag on a white background. The colors red and blue were chosen from the French flag. The Haitian arms depict a royal palm in the center topped with a red and blue cap of liberty. There are also six blue and red flags, two smaller red banners on the sides, many weapons (rifles with bayonets, two yellow cannons and many cannonballs), a drum, an anchor, green grass, and a white banner reading "L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE," meaning "Union is Strength." Both the national war flag and ensign and the civil flag and ensign are pictured below.
National and War Flag and Ensign
Civil Flag and Ensign
Sources: http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ht.html and http://www.haitiantreasures.com/HT_haitian_flag.day1.htm
Haitian Flag with Arms of Haiti
Source: http://www.mapsofworld.com/images/world-countries-flags/haiti-flag.gif The Arms of Haiti The Arms of Haiti is found in the center of the Haitian flag. The Arms of Haiti include a royal palm in the center topped with a red and blue cap of liberty. There are also six blue and red flags, two smaller red banners on the sides, many weapons (rifles with bayonets, two yellow cannons and many cannonballs), a drum, an anchor, green grass, and a white banner reading "L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE," meaning "Union is Strength."
Hurricanes and Haiti: A Tragic History By Jeffrey Masters, Ph.D. — Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground, Inc.
In many ways, the hurricane season of 2008 was the cruelest ever experienced in Haiti. Four storms - Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike - dumped heavy rains on the impoverished nation. The rugged hillsides, stripped bare of 98% of their forest cover thanks to deforestation, let flood waters rampage into large areas of the country. Particularly hard-hit was Gonaives, the fourth largest city. According to reliefweb.org, the rains from 2008's four storms killed 793, left 310 missing, injured 593, destroyed 22,702 homes, and damaged another 84,625. About 800,000 people were affected - 8% of Haiti's total population. The flood wiped out 70% of Haiti's crops, resulting in dozens of deaths of children due to malnutrition in the months following the storms. Damage was estimated at over $1 billion, the costliest natural disaster in Haitian history. The damage amounted to over 5% of the country's $17 billion GDP, a staggering blow for a nation so poor.
The year 2008 was only one of many years hurricanes have brought untold misery to Haiti. Hurricane Jeanne of 2004 passed just north of the country as a tropical storm, dumping 13 inches of rains on the nation's northern mountains. The resulting floods killed over 3,000 people, mostly in the town of Gonaives. Jeanne ranks as the 12th deadliest hurricane of all time on the list of the30 most deadly Atlantic hurricanes. Unfortunately for Haiti, its name appears several times on this list. Hurricane Flora killed over 8,000 people in 1963, making it the 6th most deadly hurricane ever. An unnamed 1935 storm killed over 2,000, and Hurricane Hazel killed over 1,000 in 1954. More recently, Hurricane Gordon killed over 1,000 Haitians in 1994, and in 1998, Hurricane Georges killed over 400 while destroying 80% of all the crops in the country.
Surprisingly, only six major Category 3 and stronger hurricanes have struck Haiti since 1851. The strongest hurricane to hit Haiti was Hurricane Cleo of 1964, which struck the southwestern peninsula as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, killing 192 people. Haiti's only other Category 4 storm was Hurricane Flora of 1963, which had 145 mph winds when it struck the southwestern peninsula, killing 8,000. No Category 5 hurricanes have hit Haiti since 1851. The most recent Category 3 hurricane to hit Haiti was Hurricane David of 1979, which crossed northern Haiti as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds after hitting the Dominican Republic as a Category 5 hurricane with 170 mph winds. David weakened quickly to a tropical storm after crossing into Haiti, as caused no deaths in the country. The other major hurricanes to strike Haiti were Hurricane Inez of 1966, which hit southern Haiti as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds, killing 480 people; Hurricane Katie of 1955, which hit near the Haiti/Dominican Republic border with 115 mph winds, killing 7; and Hurricane Five of 1873, which hit the southwestern peninsula with 115 mph winds.
Why does Haiti suffer a seemingly disproportionate number of flooding disasters? The answer in that, in large part, these are not natural disasters - they are human-caused disasters. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. With oil too expensive for the impoverished nation, charcoal from burnt trees has provided 85% or more of the energy in Haiti for decades. As a result, Haiti's 8 million poor have relentlessly hunted and chopped down huge amounts of forest, leaving denuded mountain slopes that rainwater washes down unimpeded. Back in 1980, Haiti still had 25% of its forests, allowing the nation to withstand heavy rain events like 1979's Category 3 Hurricane David without loss of life. But as of 2004, only 1.4% of Haiti's forests remained. Jeanne and Gordon were not even hurricanes - merely strong tropical storms - when they stuck Haiti, but the almost total lack of tree cover contributed to the devastating floods that killed thousands. And it doesn't even take a tropical storm to devastate Haiti - in May of 2004, three days of heavy rains from a tropical disturbance dumped more than 18 inches of rain in the mountains, triggering floods that killed over 2,600 people.
What can be done to reduce these human-worsened natural disasters? Education and poverty eradication are critical to improving things. In addition, reforestation efforts and promotion of alternative fuels are needed.
In the past two decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development has planted some 60 million trees, while an estimated 10 to 20 million of these are cut down each year, according to the USAID director in Haiti, David Adams. If you're looking for a promising way to make a charitable donation to help Haitian flood victims, considering sending a check to the Lambi Fund of Haiti, which is very active in promoting reforestation efforts, use of alternative fuels, and infrastructure improvements at a grass-roots level to help avert future flood disasters.