About Haiti

Haiti is a land of mountain vistas, beautiful beaches, art and music. World class tourist destinations such as the Citadelle la Ferrière in the north of the country only hint at the amazing history of the nation. Haiti was, in the 1700s, the wealthiest colony in the New World, representing over 25% of France’s economy in that period. In 1804, armies of escaped slaves – under General Toussaint L’Ouverture – defeated the largest army that Napoleon could muster and established the independent nation of Haiti.

More recently, of course, Haiti has been in the news for less salutary reasons. In January 2010 an earthquake leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince and several other urban centers.  Some 250,000 residences were destroyed or seriously damaged, as well as 30,000 commercial structures. The death toll was between 200,000 and 300,000; a million and a half people were left homeless.

The earthquake also severely damaged the health infrastructure of the country, most of which was centered in hard-hit Port-au-Prince. The quake leveled the central headquarters of all of the Haitian Government’s ministries, and 37 out of a total of 48 hospitals in the country were put out of service.

The health system of the country was very weak prior to the earthquake so it is no surprise to realize that it remains weak, despite the rebuilding that has occurred. There have been bright spots in the health field, however, most notable of which is the completion of a large teaching hospital in Mirebalais (an hour north of Port-au-Prince) by the nonprofit Partners in Health, in collaboration with Haiti’s Ministry of Health. PIH also now operates 12 other clinics in that area of the country. Several additional hospitals have also been built, or are being built, by other nonprofits in collaboration with the government.

On balance, there is considerable hope that Haiti’s health system will be able to provide better and more equitable care with each passing year. Statistics show, in fact, that the health status of Haitians has improved very significantly from past decades. Nevertheless, as the following summary of statistics shows, there is still much work to be done.

General information

  • Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, a two hour flight from Miami.
  • Haiti is approximately the size of Maryland with a population of 10 million people.
  • Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, among the poorest in the world (17th poorest according to IMF rankings for 2013)
  • 62% of the population is below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day
  • Only 45% of adults are employed – and of these, only one third (1/3) have formal jobs.
  • Perhaps 30% of the population has electricity.
  • The adult literacy rate is 49%. Only 22% of males and 29% of females attend some secondary school.
  • One third of girls over 6 never go to school. Only 2% have more than a high school education.


  • Haiti has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere; Malnutrition, diarrhea, respiratory infections, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are the leading causes of death.  Although under-five mortality rates have improved dramatically in the last forty years, 76 of 1000 children will die before the age of five. That is, one in every 13 children. (In 1970 the number stood at 246, or one in every 4 children.)
  • Chronic malnutrition affects 24% of children under five (World Food Programme). Almost half of the population (45%) consumes less than the minimum level of dietary energy.
  • 62% of the population has access to an “improved water source” and 24% have access to sanitary facilities.
  • It is estimated that 150,000 people in Haiti are living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 2.0% of the population.
  • Only 37% of women have a skilled attendant at birth. Lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 83.
  • Haiti has the highest prevalence of Tuberculosis in the Western Hemisphere. It is estimated that 36,000 people are living with active Tuberculosis.
  • Since it was introduced into Haiti (by UN soldiers) in 2010, over 737,000 have contracted cholera and more than 9,000 people have died from the disease.

The following table gives additional information on the current situation in Haiti (with some data from USA for comparison). Sources for the data are listed below. Note that – unless otherwise stated – this data applies to Haiti as a whole. These statistics, therefore, do not represent the situation that we find in Cité Soleil, where the Lamp’s health center is located. As one might expect, poverty has a massive influence on all manner of health concerns. The items that are highlighted in blue, below, give some hint of the differences that one would expect to find in every category, if the data was separated by income level.

Haiti USA
Total population (2013) 10,317,500 320,050,700
Predicted population annual growth rate 2013-2030 1.1% 0.8%
Urban population (%) (2013) 56.2% 82.6%
Gross National Income per capita (2013) $810 $53,670
Gross National Income per capita (PPP**, 2012) $1,240 $50,610
GDP per capita average annual growth rate (%), 1990-2012 -0.9% 1.6%
Average annual rate of inflation (%) 1990-2012 14.3% 2.2%
Population below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day (2007-2011)* 61.7%
Share of household income (%, 2007-2011*), poorest 40% 8% 16%
Share of household income (%, 2007-2011*), richest 20% 63% 46%
Public spending as a % of GDP allocated to health (2007-2011) 3.5% 8.4%
Public spending on health as a % of total government spending (2012) 5.5%
Total expenditure on health per capita (PPP**, 2012)(public AND private) $84
Total adult literacy rate (%) 2009-2013)* 48.7%
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2009-2013*, male 74.4%
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2009-2013*, female 70.5%
Use of improved drinking water sources (%) 2013, total 62% 98.8%
Use of improved sanitation facilities (%) 2013, total 24% 99.6%
Under-5 mortality rate, 1970 246 (24.6%) 23 (2.3%)
Under-five mortality rate, 1990 144 (14.4%) 11 (1.1%)
Under-five mortality rate, 2013 73 (7.3%) 7 (0.7%)
Annual number of under-five deaths (2013) 19,000 29,000
Low birth weight (%) 2009-2013* 23% 8%
Underweight (%) moderate and severe (2009-2013)* 11.6% 1.1%
Underweight (%) moderate and severe (2009-2013)* poorest 20% 17.8%
Underweight (%) moderate and severe (2009-2013)* richest 20% 3.8%
Stunting (%) moderate and severe (2009-2013)* 21.9% 3.3%
Vitamin A supplementation, full coverage (%) 2013 13%
Anemia in children <5   (2006) 60.6%
Anemia in pregnant women (2006) 50.3%
Clinical vitamin A deficiency (night blindness in most recent pregnancy) (2006) 9.6%
Adequately iodized salt consumption (%) 2012 23%
Population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption (2011) 44.5%
Pneumonia (%) 2009-2013*, Children <5 with ARI (acute respiratory infection) taken to a health facility 38%
Malaria 2009-2013*, Antimalarial treatment among febrile children 2.5%
Malaria (%) 2009-2013*, Children sleeping under ITNs (insecticide treated nets) 12%
People of all ages with active TB (2012) 36,000
Cholera – reported cases 2011 340,311
Cholera – reported cases 2014 27,753
Adult HIV prevalence (%) 2013 2.0%
People of all ages living with HIV (2013, estimate) 140,000 1,350,000
Women living with HIV (2013) 74,000
Children living with HIV (2013) 13,000
Life expectancy, 1970 47.2 70.7
Life expectancy, 2013 63.1 78.9
Delivery care (%) 2008-2013*, Skilled attendant at birth 37.3%
Skilled attendant at birth (%) 2008-2013*, poorest 20% 9.6%
Skilled attendant at birth (%) 2008-2013*, richest 20% 78.1%
Maternal mortality ratio, 2013, Lifetime risk of maternal death (1 in:) 80 2,400
Antenatal care (%) 2009-2013*, At least one visit 90.3%
Antenatal care (%) 2009-2013*, At least four visits 67.3% 97%
Antenatal care, Poorest 20% of population, At least 4 visits (2012) 33%
Antenatal care, Richest 20% of population, At least 4 visits (2012) 82%
Birth registration (%) 2005-2013*, poorest 20% 71.1% 100%
Child labor (%)   2005-2013*, total 24.4%
Violent discipline (%)   2005-2013*, total (same for male/female) 84.8%
Homicide rate, national (per 100,000) 10.2 4.7
Homicide rate, largest city (Port-au-Prince and NYC) (per 100,000) 40.1 (PAP) 5.1 (NYC)


* The statistic given is for the most recent year for which statistics are available.

** PPP is a method of standardizing the buying power of any currency, so that international comparisons can be made.


Sources: Most of the above data was taken from UNICEF at http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/haiti_statistics.html. The State of the World’s Children 2015 Country Statistical Tables can be accessed via the above site.

Data was also taken from the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2014/en/

WHO’s World Health Statistics 2014 can be found at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/112738/1/9789240692671_eng.pdf?ua=1

A good summary sheet on nutritional issues can be found at http://apps.who.int/nutrition/landscape/report.aspx?iso=hti

Current information on Tuberculosis can be found at http://gheskio.org/wp/?page_id=333

The Global Study on Homicide 2013 can be found at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf

The latest report from Haiti’s Ministry of Health (May 2014) can be found at http://www.haitilibre.com/docs/Rapport-Statistique-MSPP-2013.pdf (in French)

The Ministry’s 2012 report on mortality morbidity and service utilization can be found at: http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/SR199/SR199.eng.pdf



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