Background: 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 and massive international assistance will be required to help the country recover.
Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
Area land: 27,560 sq km
Area water: 190 sq km
Coastline: 1,771 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Haiti
Country name conventional short form: Haiti
Country name former: Republic of Haiti
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.9% (male 1,748,677/female 1,742,199); 15-64 years: 60.1% (male 2,898,251/female 2,947,272); 65 years and over: 3.9% (male 170,584/female 212,949) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.787%
Birth rate: 24.4 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 8.21 deaths/1,000 population
Net migration rate: -8.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.011 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.62 male(s)/female; total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 54.02 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 58.16 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 49.83 deaths/1,000 live births;
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 62.17 years; male: 60.84 years; female: 63.53 years;
Total fertility rate: 3.07 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.9% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 120,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 7,100 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Haitian(s); adjective: Haitian;
Ethnic groups: black 95%, mulatto and white 5%;
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%;
Languages: French (official), Creole (official);
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 52.9%; male: 54.8%; female: 51.2% (2003 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $11.53 billion (2010 est.); $12.15 billion (2009 est.); $11.81 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.593 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: -5.1% (2010 est.); 2.9% (2009 est.); 0.8% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $1,200 (2010 est.); $1,200 (2009 est.); $1,300 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 25%; industry: 16%; services: 59% (2009 est.);
Population below poverty line: 80% (2003 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 0.7%; highest 10%: 47.7% (2001);
Labor force: 4.81 million;
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 38.1%; industry: 11.5%; services: 50.4% (1995);
Unemployment rate: (2010 est.);
Budget: revenues: $900 million; expenditures: $2.6 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: textiles, sugar refining, flour milling, cement, light assembly based on imported parts;
Industrial production growth rate: -4.8% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 650 million kWh (2010 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 309 million kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
(Independent weekly), Port-au-Prince
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Haitians are currently awaiting the results of their presidential election. Whoever takes the reins of the presidency will have a long, rubble-paved road ahead.
Two months after the earthquake—with over a million people homeless, the education system in tatters, and a season of deadly rainfall and hurricanes on the way—the people of Haiti face a situation that grows more dire by the day.
The people and government of Taiwan are no strangers to natural disaster, and their history has galvanized them to do as much as possible to help bring Haiti to its feet.
With aid to Haiti largely failing in the past and the daunting task of rebuilding the capital at present, many wonder whether international development plans will be lost in the rubble.