Haiti is a small impoverished country occupying the western half of the Island of Hispaniola which it shares with Dominican Republic. Haiti’s terrain is dominated by rugged mountains interspersed with river valleys and coastal flat lands. With its coastline spanning 1,771 km, and a population of over 8 million, much of this densely populated island resides near the coast. Despite being the first nation in Latin America to gain independence, Haiti has a long history of political violence and economic imbalance. Haiti ranks 149 out of 182 countries in UNDP’s 2009 Human development index and ranks at the top of the Corruption Perception Index. Population pressure has lead to extreme environmental degradation, with an estimated 98 percent of forests cleared for fuel. These destabilizing forces have left most Haitian extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Hurricanes and tropical storms routinely hit Haiti, causing massive flooding and deadly landslides. In January, 2010, Haiti was decimated by an unprecedented earthquake of magnitude 7.0.
While Haiti has received a staggering amount of foreign aid and funding to develop its economy, improve basic services, and rehabilitate its environment, poverty has not subsided. Compounding development challenges, is the repeated and devastating impacts of natural disasters (hurricanes, flooding, droughts and earthquakes). In order to reduce Haiti’s vulnerability to such hazards, adaptation measures need to be integrated into water management, agriculture, fisheries, land use, and forestry.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities