The result is that 80% of the population are unemployed; that is have no formal employment. 25 % live in absolute poverty – the one dollar a day threshold. Many of those who had money have left the country. The impact on the environment has been devastating; fishing in the Caribbean sea has depleted stocks, already stressed by pollution and soil swamping the coral reefs. That soil has been washed off steep slopes due to the stripping of trees and other vegetation for fuel and subsistence agriculture.
And in the centre of this small country lies a valley where much of the population has made its way – the capital Port Au Prince lies at the heart of a dense conurbation; the main port and airport and much of the industry and commerce. Crammed into mountain ranges on either side this valley is a tense melting pot for all the factions, classes, families and social groups of Haiti as a whole.
In January 2010, the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault which runs straight through the crammed valley of Port Au Prince moved. With a magnitude of 7.0, the resulting earthquake and its aftershocks caused the death of around a quarter of a million people, with many other hundreds of thousands injured or left homeless.
And herein lies Haiti’s other problem. It lies in a region of the earth vulnerable to all manner of natural disasters. Each year, especially around September and October, hurricanes spin across from the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea or across from the Atlantic. Storm surges cause flooding along the coast, the rain loosens soil and rocks on the steep eroded slopes and landslides rip apart the mountains, depositing on villages and towns below. Because of its poverty and the weary corrupt riddled bureaucracy of government, the planning and implementation of measures to reduce the risk and impact of these disasters, Haitian society is vulnerable to having the worst of outcomes from these natural hazards. But at least the regularity of hurricanes means that the memory amongst the community of their problems are refreshed each time – maybe not every year, but often enough that a generation does not forget the experience or the lessons learnt.