Developing country that will be focused upon for this report is Haiti. The reason the author of this report chose Haiti for this report is because the recent earthquake there that claimed roughly 50,000 lives brought it to the forefront. This is in contrast to the Dominican Republic (which is on the other end of the same island) had little to no notable news coverage during the same aftermath. Haiti is certainly not at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to developing countries but it shares a colonial past (French) with many other countries and it faces many challenges including starkly low incomes, very low literacy rates and other major life challenges for normal every-day Haitians. Facts to be covered include the name of the country, which of course is Haiti, when it became independent, its location, in what ways the country is less develop than more advanced and developed countries, the efforts present to reshape and modernize the country, what assistance has worked/not worked for Haiti and the future prospects for the country.
Facts about Haiti
As intimated in the introductory paragraph, Haiti became its own nation when it declared independence from France. The colony was French-formed in October 1697 and it remained under French control for more than a hundred years into the early 1800's. Independence was declared by the Haitian people in 1804 but it was not recognized by France as an independent nation until more than two decades later in 1825 (CBC News, 2013).
Source: Google Maps
The nation of Haiti is located on the western third of the island known as Hispaniola, with the eastern two thirds being occupied by the Dominican Republic. The island of Hispaniola is just to the east of the eastern edge of Cuba and just to the west of United States territory Puerto Rico. All of these nations being discussed are in the area known as the Caribbean and they are all within fairly close range to the southern tip of Floida. Venezuela and the rest of South America is just to the south and Central America, including Mexico and the other Central American countries, is just to the west. The small island nations of Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, and the like form a bit of a curve that extends from the edge of Puerto Rico and tails down towards the eastern edge of Venezuela (Google Maps, 2013).
In terms of size, Haiti is nearly 28,000 kilometers squared or about 10,714 square miles. The United State that comes closes to that in terms of size is Maryland, which is a smidge smaller than Haiti at 10,455 square miles. No other United State is less than 24,000 square miles, that being West Virginia. Only a handful of states in the United States are smaller than Haiti or Maryland (The U.S. 50, 2013).
Reasons Haiti is Less Developed
There are a number of facts and figures that make clear that Haiti is behind the curve in a lot of ways. More than half (54%) of all Haitians live below the poverty line. Nearly a tenth (nine percent) live in abject poverty. There are 346.4 people per square kilometer in Haiti. This is actually less than a good number of states in the United States. However, the median age country-wide is a scant 20. To compare, the median age in the United States is 27 for men and 26 for women (CBC News, 2013).
Life expectancy at birth in Haiti is 61, a full decade less (and then some) than the United States and most advanced countries. The fertility rate in Haiti is 3.81. 80 out of 1000 children in Haiti die before age 5, or nearly 1 in 10. As of 2011, Haiti had 9.7 million people and 121,000 of those have HIV or AIDS, which is an infection rate of 1.2% nationwide. Roughly a third of the population has cell phones and only a million has internet access on a regular basis. Roughly two thirds of all of people in the country work or otherwise rely heavily on the agriculture sector. Roughly half of the country are urban livers and the others are rural or otherwise non-urban. The country only has a literacy rate of 53% (CBC News, 2013).
Reasons for Problems
As directly or indirectly noted above, there are a number of factors that lead to Haiti being in such danger in terms of not being developed and not being able to become more developed. First, they are very much a "one trick pony" in terms of agriculture being such a huge part of what keeps the country going economically. Another major issue is that only a third of the country have cell phones and not even an eight of the country has internet access, which stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world (Brittanica, 2013).
However, the major reason Haiti is in such dire straits is that the poverty rate is off the charges. Haiti's abject poverty rate rivals the OVERALL poverty rate of the United States and Haiti's poverty rate is off the charts compared to most other countries, developed or not. The story of Haiti mirrors a ton of other countries around the world including North America, South America Africa and even Asia/Europe in that the country was once colonialized by another country (France, in this case) and the people eventually claimed independence. Some countries that have taken that path (most notably the United States) have done quite well with that over the long haul but many other countries (mostly in Africa) have done quite poorly even centuries removed from colonial rule (Brittanica, 2013).
To really know the root of the problem in Haiti, one need only look at its history over the last century. The 20th century in particular was bloody and chaotic for the country of Haiti. They were occupied by the United States for roughly 1.5 decades (from 1915 to 1934), the Duvalier family dictatorship took over in the 1950's and didn't leave until 1986. The notorious "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" ruled the country over that entire time frame. The Duvalier family was only removed by force, that occurring in 1986 (Brittanica, 2013).
The country then elected Leslie Manigat but she was forced out via a bloodless coup the very next year. Jean Bertrand Aristide took over for the 1990's and an attempt on his life happened before he was even inaugurated. Aristide was forced from power due to a revolt 2004. Since then, a lot of the locus of control vis-a-vis leadership with Haiti has centered on the United States and/or the United Nations. One notable even that happened during the turbulent leadership of Aristide is that the administration of Bill Clinton in the United States helped procure his return by establishing a peace treaty and this allowed Aristide to return until his eventual permanent ouster in 2004 (Brittanica, 2013).
Haiti's biggest problems is that they have horrible conditions, their people are not educated, opportunities for jobs are scants and one bad drought would be lethal for many in Haiti due to the very hard over-reliance on agriculture and there has been a series of bad to dictator-type leaders even after the French left in the early 1800's. The only remotely stabilizing forces have been the United States and the United Nations and that is not a possible or practical solution if Haiti is to remain independent and it is clear from the French/Haiti interactions that this is their desire but they have yet to find a non-dictator leader and/or one that can mobilize the country into the current century, as Haiti is nowhere close to being modernized in many ways (Brittanica, 2013).
Infrastructure of all levels in Haiti is a mess and the political system is full of bad actors and people with selfish to evil intentions. That being said, the United Nations and the United States have done their part to give a stable presence and aid for those that need it and that went into overdrive when the recent earthquake struck from the very heart of Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Direct aid in the form of food and other needed supplies has worked as a Band-Aid to keep people alive but a viable long-term solution has not yet emerged that will make Haiti run with a good non-corrupt leader without a heavy to over-the-top amount of support from external sources such as the United Nations and the United States. Until or unless that changes, the long-term prospects of Haiti fall into one of two major categories. The first possibility is that Haiti will continue to flounder without the direct support of the U.S. Or UN or the U.S./UN will butt out and a bad leader along the lines of Aristide or Duvalier will step in and plunder the nation like has been their history for the vast majority of Haiti's independent history. The other possibility is continued U.S./UN occupation and the populace…