Population: 10.2 million
Language: Creole (French)
Major religion: Christianity
Life Expectancy: 61 (men), 64 (women)
Currency: Gourde (HTG)
GNI per capita: $760
The Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, Haiti is plagued by widespread corruption, gang violence, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Democratic order was restored when President Jovenel Moïse of the center-right PHTK party took office in 2017 after a protracted period of political instability. Moïse’s flagship reform program, The Change Caravan, has made some improvements in health care, education, and infrastructure. Instability flared anew in 2018, however, when violent protests against reduced fuel subsidies forced Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant to resign and exposed the security vacuum left by the October 2017 departure of U.N. peacekeepers. Challenges include ongoing reconstruction from storm damage and continued recovery from 2010’s devastating earthquake. One-quarter of Haiti’s people live in extreme poverty.
Historical Snapshot of Haiti
Since Haiti won its independence from France in 1804 — the only nation founded as the result of a slave revolution — a series of policies by foreign entities have stifled development and precipitated economic catastrophe. In 1825, France, in exchange for recognizing Haiti’s sovereignty, extorted today’s equivalent of $21.7 billion from Haiti, paid over a period of 122 years, as compensation for lost property — the bodies of the Haitians themselves. Haiti’s subsequent crippling debt prompted the U.S. to invade Haiti in 1915 and occupy the country for 19 years. The U.S. expropriated the holdings of Haiti’s treasury, designated 40 percent of Haiti’s national output towards debt repayment, enforced a system of forced labor, and murdered thousands of Haitians who resisted the occupying forces.
Haiti’s more recent history has been marked by substantial involvement of foreign states in its democratic processes. For the past three decades, the U.S. has wielded foreign aid, forced tariff reductions and financed coup d’etats to ensure that Haiti remains aligned with U.S. interests. The current protests can be understood, in part, as the demonstrators’ lack of confidence in an electoral process, they view as fraudulent and influenced by outsiders. Learn more about Haiti’s protests and history.
The 2010 Earthquake’s Impact on Housing
In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck 15 miles southwest of the capital of Port Au Prince and an estimated 300,000 people were killed. An additional 2 million people were left homeless after the earthquake wreaked havoc across the country and Port Au Prince. But there was a large housing deficit even before the earthquake. Then Haiti’s national housing deficit was estimated at 700,000 units. At least another 250,000 houses were destroyed or badly damaged by the earthquake. Housing was the sector most affected by the earthquake, with a total damage of $2.3 billion. The damage to buildings is at least partially because of Haiti’s lack of formal building codes. Poorly constructed homes didn’t stand a chance and this was a large percentage of those in Port Au Prince.
People were forced to live in camps as the government tried to recover from the earthquake. The conditions in camps are dire with only 1/3 of inhabitants having access to a latrine. People still live in these camps today, waiting for help from a badly overwhelmed government and inefficient international assistance. $13 billion dollars were committed by international institutions and still 20% or less of the homes constructed since have been legitimate long term housing solutions. The immediate response to the earthquake was to build temporary housing and 9 years later many people still live in those temporary homes today. A trip to one of these temporary camps 4 years after the earthquake was the inspiration for CEO and Co-founder Brett Hagler to start New Story.
Our Local Partner: Mission of Hope
In each country, we work with a local home building organization. They know the people best, have government connections and most importantly they have a deep understanding of the housing situation in Haiti.
Our partner in Haiti is Mission of Hope and they were the very first local partner we ever worked with at the outset of our work. Mission of Hope has been one of the most consistent and successful nonprofits working in Haiti since the Earthquake. They serve 91,000 meals per day and do quality work across healthcare, housing, and education. Few, if any NGO’s working in Haiti have impacted as many lives as they have. This makes them one of the most well-connected organizations and a valuable partner for New Story. Compared to the other countries, Haiti definitely needs the most support outside of housing and Mission of Hope excels at this.