Capital: Port-Au-Prince
Population: 9,701,932
Land Surface: 27,560 km2
Population Density: 352.7 persons/km2
Urban Population: N/A
Population Growth Rate: N/A
Currency: Gourde/Goud


Haiti ranks as one of the countries with the highest exposure to multiple hazards, according to the World Bank’s Natural Disaster Hotspot study. Haiti lies in the middle of the Caribbean Basin and has the 5th highest mortality risk to two or more hazards. With 96% of its population living at risk, Haiti has the highest vulnerability rating in terms of cyclones among the region’s small island states (12.9 on a scale of 13). The effects of cyclones include wind damage, flooding, land/mudslides and coastal surges.

Severe environmental degradation and the presence of settlements in low lying areas and floodplains are key contributing factors towards the country’s vulnerability. Further contributing factors include high levels of poverty, weak public infrastructure, a history of ineffective governments and serious fiscal problems. In addition to the hydrometeorological hazards, Haiti is also located in a seismically active zone, intersected by two fault lines. The country’s high population density (up to 40,000 km2 in Port-au-Prince) coupled with the large number of informal structures, and weak public and private infrastructure, render the state and its population particularly vulnerable.

Even prior to the earthquake of January 2010, economic losses from adverse natural events were seen to be increasing in Haiti. As more assets are created and concentrated, losses from adverse natural events are increasing. This was already demonstrated by the events of August and September 2008, in which Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah and Ike affected Haiti during a three week period resulting in damage and losses equivalent to 15% of the country’s GDP. Prior to 2010, Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike represented the largest evaluated disaster in Haiti’s history.

The implications of climate change on the intensity and frequency of adverse natural events underscores the importance of a proactive approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR). According to the report of the Climate Investment Fund’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience Expert Group, Haiti is one of the 10 global climate change hotspots. The inability or failure of a government to address its vulnerability and to support the mitigation of risk can drastically undermine its natural rate of growth and overall poverty reduction efforts.

Haiti is highly vulnerable to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. This vulnerability is greatly influenced and exacerbated by the country's poverty, continuous state of complex emergency and environmental degradation.

Haiti is the poorest and only Least Developed country in the Western Hemisphere. A vicious circle of poverty, political and economic instability, violence, and lack of infrastructure are some of the most pressing underlying causes for the country's low level of preparedness. Without political stability and sufficient economic resources, virtually no attention has been geared toward the effective operation of Haiti's national meteorological component, an early warning system and disaster reduction. Environmental degradation, too, poses a serious problem. Widespread deforestation, partly caused by the country's charcoal production, shows a direct increase in the risk of floods and landslides.

The most recent serious disaster in Haiti prior to the earthquake in January 2010 occurred in September 2004 when Tropical Storm Jeanne caused flash floods and mudslides. These floods caused the loss of 3000 lives, affected approximately 300,000 people, destroyed around 4500 houses and cut the access roads to many villages for days. Just a few months earlier, in May 2004, 17 hours of continuous rain caused flash floods and landslides. More than 100,000 people were affected and some 1700 houses destroyed. Smaller scale disasters occur frequently, also causing enormous impacts on the population and on economic assets.

Following the civil unrest and political crisis of the beginning of 2004, the United Nations Security Council, on April 30, 2004, created the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti to assist in restoring political order and economic recovery. An Interim Cooperation Framework was set up for the transition period 2004-2006. This led to the creation of 10 thematic groups on priority issues, one of which is the Thematic Environmental Group. This group has outlined three priority interventions involving environmental management: 1) reduction of pressure on wood resources, 2) improved environmental resource management and planning, and 3) sustainable and integrated disaster risk management through the implementation of a National Risk and Disaster Management Plan.

The national civil protection agency is in charge of risk and disaster management activities. The system has several coordination levels and includes 10 ministries and the Haitian Red Cross. It is headed by the National Committee of Risk and Disaster Management, led by the Ministry of Interior. The Directorate of Civil Protection supports the Ministry of Interior in this function. A second level of coordination is at the technical and executive level where executives of ministries and agencies meet to form the Permanent Secretariat of Risk and Disaster Management, led by the General Directorate of the Ministry of Interior.

Under the transitional government established in February 2004, disaster management has been assigned directly to the Directorate of Civil Protection. The government intends to increase the capacity of this directorate by transforming it into a General Directorate. Its role is expected to go beyond disaster assistance by setting up an active programme of mitigation. It plans to establish a national risk reduction strategy and supervise mitigation and preparedness activities of the different ministries and organizations.

Source: Disaster Risk Management Programs for Priority Countries: Summary; GFDRR, 2009 / UNISDR Country profiles / CIA Factbook / CDEMA


All content of this page: © Copyright International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (EIRD), 2012 & © Copyright World Health Organization (WHO), 2012. All Rights Reserved. View original facts page by clicking here.

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