The country’s humid tropical climate makes Haiti vulnerable to hurricanes, severe tropical storms, earthquakes, and droughts. Nearly half of its population was affected by natural disasters in recent years, and almost one-third of Haitians fell victim to the recurring drought in 2016. This only worsened the food crisis, with millions of people being threatened by malnutrition. The lack of access to potable water and food supplies in Haiti resulted in more than 50 percent of Haitians living below the poverty line. Additionally, Haiti’s fertility rate has decreased to just under three children per woman.
Haiti was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, who called the island Espanola, which later became Hispaniola. Following the arrival of the Spanish colonies, a very large part of the indigenous population quickly became extinct, as wars and brought-in diseases almost eradicated them. In the 17th century, French colonies were established in Haiti. Having fought for decades now over the territory of the island, the Spanish handed over the western third of the Hispaniola to the French, who called it Saint- Domingue. During the French occupations, Saint-Domingue's economy expanded at a fast pace, mainly due to the slaves producing lots sugar and coffee, which were exported to the European markets. The country gained its independence from France in 1804, and renamed itself Haiti. It is among the first countries in the Western Hemisphere to become independent and the world’s oldest black republic. Nowadays, nearly 60 percent of the country’s population live in urban areas, with its capital, Port-au-Prince being the most populous city in Haiti.
Economically speaking, Haiti has one of the most crippled and unsustainable economies worldwide. Its GDP per capita is the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also one of the lowest worldwide. Haiti has one of the highest inflation rates, as well as one of the lowest GDP growth rates in the world, weakening its already unstable economy even more. Political insecurity and continued exposure to natural disasters impacted the country’s economic growth, remittances being the only way out of this financial fiasco. Currently, the national debt of the country amounts to more than 2.6 billion U.S. dollars and is forecast to continue to almost double in the following years.
Although the majority of the Haitians are employed in the agricultural sector, farming accounts for a small part of Haiti’s GDP. The most produced commodities are coffee and corn. Last year, it exported goods with a value amounting to just shy of one billion U.S. dollars, and imported goods worth more than three times that.