The Reality in Haiti
Haiti has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere. Infants, children, and new and expectant mothers are most vulnerable to food shortages and poor nutrition, which are a frequent, seasonal fact of life in Haiti.
Widespread poverty, overcrowding, and poor sanitation make the spread of life-threatening diseases a constant threat here, while noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, are on the rise. At the same time, Haiti is experiencing a dramatic increase in the incidence of traumatic injuries due to traffic accidents, an unintended consequence of post-earthquake road improvements.
Urban vs. Rural Life*
Since the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, recovery in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, has been advancing. Most displaced families have relocated from camps, more children are attending school, and more citizens have access to necessities, like clean water. The situation, however, is drastically different for those residing in the Haitian countryside.
In general, there are significant inequalities that exist between the urban and rural populations of Haiti. Of all the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it is the most unequal in terms of wealth distribution. The richest 20% hold more than 64% of the total wealth, while the poorest 20% barely hold 1%. Rural communities are also much less likely to have access to clean water, energy sources and proper sanitation. While some of the rural population has received aid in obtaining clean water, many are still too far from clean sources. These people only have access to unprotected water from rivers and wells, which they use for drinking, bathing, cooking, etc., and are at the highest risk for waterborne illnesses like Cholera.
Since the year 2000, the overall extreme poverty rate has been improving. It has gone down from 31% to 24%. Although, this is solely due to improvements in cities. Poverty in rural Haiti has remained largely the same. This is particularly disconcerting, because over half of Haiti’s population lives in rural areas.
A Health & Economic Snapshot*
- Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, where the average lifespan is a mere 64, compared to 73 in the neighboring Dominican Republic, 78 in nearby Cuba, and 79 in the U.S.
- Roughly 50 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
- Half the population lives without access to clean water and 80 percent of Haitians do not have access to sanitation facilities. Deadly cholera, spread through contaminated water, is an ongoing risk.
- Haiti has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere.
- Almost 20 percent of children under age 5 are underweight, and 1 in 6 kids dies before age 5.
- Nationwide, unemployment hovers around 40 percent.
*World Health Organization, 2011
*Trading Economics, 2010