Haiti’s Poverty Statistics
- We Americans can not fathom the level of poverty these people survive in; just as they can not imagine the level of wealth and security that we live in…
- Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere
- 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day
- 60% of Haitians live on less than $1 a day
- Haiti is the 3rd hungriest country in the world
- The average Haitian eats only one meal a day, meaning many do not eat
- 380,000 orphans before quake ( many thousands more after quake)
- 225,000 restaveks (child servants often treated as slaves)
- tens of thousands of children live alone on the streets
- 20% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition
- 50% of children are able to attend school
- 20% have a 6th grade education or better
- 70% of Haitians do not have electricity
- 90% of Haitians do not have running water
- 50% of Haitians do not have access to an improved water source
- 80% of Haitians lack adequate sanitation
Haiti has a population of 10 million, there are at least a BILLION people around the world living in similar circumstances. World poverty stats are incomprehensible. Visit this link to look at world poverty facts: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats
The Life of a Hatian…
You wake up early every morning lying on your shabby sleeping mat. If you are one of the 60% of Haitians that live in a rural area, most likely your house is a dilapidated, one room hut with a dirt floor. Hopefully it will not rain because your roof leaks badly and your dirt floor will turn to mud quickly. When you look around your home, you see very few possessions. Your family’s property is essentially comprised of the scant roof over your heads, the clothes on your backs, a pot and pan for cooking, and maybe a small makeshift table and a few chairs or stools.
You will eat no breakfast, as the average Haitian eats only one meal a day. There is no bathroom and probably no latrine to use. To wash you must first walk to the hand pump water well to fill a bucket. Or if you are like half of Haitians, you have no improved water source so you will find the closest stream or pond. Clean water is a luxury here. 90% of people do not have indoor plumbing and 70% do not have electricity.
At least two-thirds of Haitians are not formally employed, so you likely have no real job to go to. You are far more likely to be one of the 70% of Haitians that attempt to survive on some form of very small scale, very crude farming, or other hard labor tasks related to agriculture. 5% of the Haitian population owns 75% of the land and 1% of the population controls over 40% of the wealth. You are not lucky enough to be one of these people; you are the average person who struggles to survive. Assuredly you are of the 80% of people in Haiti that live on less than $2 a day, and likely are one of the 60% that live on less than $1 a day.
To try and provide for your family you may toil with hand tools on a plot of land. This plot of land was fertile when your ancestors worked it several hundred years ago as slaves. The French colony that is now Haiti was the richest and most productive colony in the western hemisphere. But now your land is infertile. You struggle to produce one third the crop that could be expected elsewhere. Erosion caused by the deforestation of this mountainous island has swept most of the good top soil off into the ocean. The Mahogany tree forests were cut down long ago for use in the U.S. or Western Europe. What trees remain have been used for charcoal, a Haitians’ primary fuel source. 97% of the forests are gone. The hillsides are largely barren. Only rocks and some grass and shrubs remain in most places.
What soils you have left are overused and infertile, but you have no resources to buy chemical fertilizers and you can’t afford to let the soil lay idle as your family starves. So you do the best you know how with what you have. Most likely you use your old rusty machete as a universal tool. After months of hard work, you will harvest a crop if drought, hurricane, insect, or disease does not wipe it out first.
If not a farmer, you are likely a laborer of some sort. Your labor almost certainly is related to the essential needs of people. Life revolves around the basics. You work long hard days in agonizing heat. You may have to walk for miles every day between your hut and place that you labor. You earn somewhere between $2 and $4 for a hard day of work, a meager living at most, but you are happy to find any means of providing for your family, many others have none.
At the end of the day you will stop at the local outdoor market and buy rice, beans, and maybe a few yams or plantains to feed your family. If you are lucky you will have a little money left over.
If your hard work pays well enough, your children might be able to attend school. Roughly 50% of children in Haiti are able to attend school. That number is many more than when you were a child. You are one of the 50% of Haitians that is illiterate. It costs about $100 a year to educate a Haitian child, but that is undoubtedly much more than you can afford. Without outside help in subsidizing the cost of school, your children would not be able to attend. If your children attend school it is considered a great blessing, but only 20% will have the opportunity to go past the 6th grade.
If your children are unable to attend school, more than likely they have greater troubles than being uneducated and illiterate. Maybe they are of the 20% of children that suffer from chronic malnutrition. They might have reddish tinged hair and pot bellies from their malnutrition. Maybe you are so impoverished the one meal a day the average Haitian eats is unattainable. You and your family are forced to eat “dirt cakes” to quiet your hunger pangs. Your family buys these cakes of clay, salt, and vegetable shortening to eat when you don’t have enough money to buy the rice and beans that others eat. A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents. By eating these dirt cakes, patties, biscuits or whatever they might be called, you almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites. The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a $0.02 de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually.
Maybe you are in such despair that you give your child to a wealthier family in the promise that they will feed, clothe, and shelter your child. You send your child to Port –au-Prince as a restavek, an unpaid child servant. There are at least 225,000 restavek children in Haiti. As likely as not your child is a poorly treated slave more than anything. Maybe your young child will run away from this slavery to fend for themselves in Cite Soleil, one of the poorest slums in the world. There are tens of thousands of children wandering the streets utterly alone.
Still trying to provide for the rest of the family you have left, you worry you or another family member might fall ill or become injured. There is only one doctor for every 10,000 people in Haiti. In the U.S. there is approximately one doctor for every 300 people. Health care is expensive and scarce.
Hopefully you and your spouse remain healthy and live to be about 60, the average life expectancy of a Haitian. If you and your spouse die early from a disease or condition that is most likely curable or preventable, your children will join 380,000 other children in being orphans. Their future would be uncertain without doubt.
But you are blessed and your entire family survives and endures this extreme form of poverty. You go about your daily life rarely complaining. You simply are happy to have your relative health, a place to sleep, and a meal to eat. You are aware other people in the world live a nicer life but you cannot possibly imagine the often excessive and wasteful lives they live. You cannot fathom the oceans of belongings they possess. In your life everything has a purpose and nothing is wasted. You cannot comprehend the amount of wealth they squander. You only hope that some resources will be shared with you.
You simply endure. That is all a person can do is endure and hold out hope that someday things will get better. You have faith that day by day, one small step at a time, things in your country will improve. You are always fighting to survive this day, and living for a better tomorrow.