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The Haitian People

By theyear 2015 Haiti's populaiton was estimate at 10,254,000, and was expected to grow to 11,750,000 by 2025 and reach 14,543,000 by the year 2015. The growth rate, which was 2.8% annually in 2015 was expected to decline to 0.6% by 2050. Roughly half the population still practices voodoo. About 80 percent of Haitians belong to the Roman Catholic faith. Many, however, mix Catholicism with traditional voodoo practices. About 16 percent of the population identifies itself as Protestant, with the Baptist denomination being the largest.

Haiti was the first modern black republic. In 1804, 500,000 West African slaves won their freedom from France and formed Haiti. Over two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas. The peasants have traditionally depended on the extended family and cooperative labor to survive, however, in recent more families are moving into urban slums. This has caused a shift from the extended family to the nuclear family in many urban areas. Men and women work together, sharing household and financial responsibilities. Haitian women tend to be more active in working outside the home than women in other Latin American countries. Women who earn money from other than agricultural endeavors need not share it with their husbands. As a result, many women are financially independent. Class association has historically been determined by skin color, fluency in languages, and type of work performed. The political influence of the new middle class is creating some social insecurity in the country.

In 2005 Haiti had an estimated population of 8.1 million, with an annual growth rate of about 2.2 percent. Haiti is the western hemisphere's second most densely populated country (248 persons per square kilometer), trailing only Barbados. About 1.5 million citizens live in the capital and its surrounding districts. Most of the population, however, lives in small cities. In total, Haiti has only four cities with more than 100,000 residents. All population growth has come from childbearing, as Haiti's net migration rate stands at -1.7 migrants per 1,000 population. Population statistics remain difficult to gather because of widespread emigration and the periodic exodus of political refugees in the midst of regime change. Thousands of Haitians have attempted to reach the shores of the United States, often on handmade seacraft.

Analysis suggests that no more than 28 percent of the land should be cultivated if using optimum techniques for soil and water conservation. These numbers are remarkable since survey national data from 1995 show 48 percent of total land area under active cultivation. Assuming a total population of 7,630,997 in 1998, the overall population density is 581 individuals per square kilometer of cultivated land, or 989 per square kilometer of land deemed cultivable. Looking ahead, by 205 it might be expected that there would be about 2,000 people per cultivable square kilometer. One square kilometer is just shy of 250 acres, so there would be 8 people per acre. When the slaves of the Confederacy were liberated, they were promised "40 acres and a mule".

Haiti has extremely low life expectancy - about 53 years in 2005 (51.6 years for males and 54.3 years for females). Haiti had an estimated birthrate of 36.6 births per 1,000 population and a death rate of 12.3 deaths per 1,000 population in 2005. Haiti's death rate ranks as the worst in the western hemisphere, as does its 2005 infant mortality rate of 73.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. In terms of gender, slightly more boys than girls are born in Haiti (1.03 males per female), but because of war, working hardships, and sickness, the total population has fewer males (0.97 males per female) than females. Haitian women have an average of five children. Most of Haiti's population is under the age of 65. The country's median age is 18. Nearly 43 percent of the population is 14 or younger; 54 percent is 15 to 64 years of age.

Nearly all of Haiti's population (95 percent) is of African ancestry. The remaining 5 percent of the population is mulatto or white. The origin of the black population in Haiti can be traced back to the colonial slave trade, when Haiti's thriving sugar plantations needed thousands of slave laborers. French and Creole are Haiti's official languages.

Education standards in Haiti are extremely low. Haiti's literacy rate of about 53 percent (55 percent for males and 51 percent for females) falls well below the 90 percent average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean countries. Under President Aristide, some improvements have occurred. In 1997 the government passed a 10-year education plan, with the goal of universal access to quality schools. The national education budget increased from 9 percent of the national budget in 1997 to 22 percent in 2000, which paid for programs to provide school lunches, uniforms, and bus transportation. Additionally, in 2002 the government began a literacy campaign, facilitated by 30,000 literacy monitors and the distribution of 700,000 literacy manuals. Overall, school attendance rose from 20 percent in 1994 to 64 percent in 2000. Even with these improvements, however, the country still faces severe shortages in educational supplies and qualified teachers, and the rural population remains vastly underrepresented in the country's classrooms. Currently, most Haitian schools are private rather than state-funded. International private schools (run by Canada, France, or the United States) and church-run schools educate 90 percent of students.

Deficient sanitation systems, poor nutrition, and inadequate health services have pushed Haiti to the bottom of the World Bank's rankings of health indicators. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 80 percent of Haiti's population lives below the poverty line. Consequently, malnutrition is a significant problem. Half the population can be categorized as "food insecure," and half of all Haitian children are undersized as a result of malnutrition. Less than half the population has access to clean drinking water, a rate that pales even in comparison to other less developed nations. Haiti's healthy life expectancy at birth is only 44 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 43 percent of the target population receives the recommended immunizations.

In terms of health care spending, Haiti ranks last in the western hemisphere. Economic instability has limited any growth in this area. Per capita, Haiti spends about US$83 annually on health care. There are 25 physicians and 11 nurses per 100,000 population. Only one-fourth of births are attended by a skilled health professional. Most rural areas have no access to health care, making residents susceptible to otherwise treatable diseases. In 2003, for example, the WHO confirmed an outbreak of typhoid fever in Haiti that, because of a lack of access to doctors and safe water, led to dozens of deaths.

Haiti has the highest incidence of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) outside of Africa. Sex tourism and lack of health education led to the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s. Estimates vary, but the United Nations projects the national prevalence rate to be 4.5 percent of the population. Other estimates place the rate as high as 12 percent in the urban population and 5 percent in rural regions. Annually, 5,000 Haitian babies are born infected with the AIDS virus. The disease causes a fifth of all infant deaths and has orphaned 200,000 children.

Lack of economic opportunity in Haiti has resulted in an exodus of the country's most educated workers (nearly 1 million of whom have settled in the United States). For those left in the country, crime and poverty have become nearly unavoidable facts of life. Political instability - the constant threat of a coup?has lessened the chance of the government's solving the nation's problems. Additionally, a legacy of political corruption and tainted elections has led to a pattern of violent political protest. In order for the lives of ordinary Haitians to improve, political stability must be achieved so that economic programs can take hold.

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Page last modified: 01-06-2017 12:45:33 ZULU