Latin America & Caribbean

Haiti country profile

Map of Haiti

Haiti became the world's first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century.

But independence came at a crippling cost. It had to pay reparations to France, which demanded compensation for former slave owners. The 19th century "independence debt" was not paid off until 1947. There have been recent calls for France to repay the money.

Chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters in recent decades have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.

An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.

A UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 2004 to help stabilize the country.


Republic of Haiti

Capital: Port-au-Prince

  • Population 10.2 million

  • Area 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq miles)

  • Major languages Creole, French

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 61 years (men), 64 years (women)

  • Currency gourde

Getty Images


Interim president: Jocelerme Privert

Image copyright Getty Images

Jocelerme Privert was named as interim president by parliament in February 2016 to fill a power vacuum caused by the disputed result of the first round of voting to replace incumbent Michel Martelly in October.

The election was won by Jovenel Moise, but opposition challenger Jude Celestin accused the electoral authorities of favouring Mr Moise, and threatened to pull out of the run-off, which was repeatedly postponed, at times amid unrest throughout the country.

A special commission has recommended a re-run of the October election, saying it had been marred by the registration of "zombie voters".


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Numerous local radio stations, such as this one, were destroyed in the 2010 quake

Social media were used as a communications channel after the 2010 quake. The first images of the disaster came from citizens' mobile phones.

About 12% of the population was online by the end of 2014 (Internetworldstats).

Radio is Haiti's key news medium.


Some key dates in Haiti's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "Papa Doc" Duvalier's reign of terror was characterised by torture and killings. He was portrayed in the the Graham Greene novel The Comedians

1804 - General Jean Jacques Dessalines proclaims the independent black republic of Haiti after rebel slaves defeat French troops dispatched by Napoleon Bonaparte.

1915 - US invades 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.

1957 - Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier wins elections. He eventually turned his administration into a brutal dictatorship.

1971 - Papa Doc dies and is replaced by his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

1986 - Duvalier is forced into exile by an uprising, ending a 29-year family dictatorship.

1990 - Populist priest Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the landslide winner in a presidential election, Haiti's first free and peaceful polls.

1991 - Aristide is overthrown by the military.

1994 - 20,000 US troops arrive to restore democracy. Aristide returns.

2004 - Aristide leaves Haiti amid a rebellion. US Marines land to restore order. A UN stabilisation force is put in place.

2010 - More than 200,000 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.

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