Haiti became the world’s first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century.
But independence came at a crippling cost. It had to pay reparations to France, which demanded compensation for former slave owners. The 19th century “independence debt” was not paid off until 1947. There have been recent calls for France to repay the money.
Chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters in recent decades have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.
An earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.
A UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 2004 to help stabilize the country.
- Republic of Haiti
- Capital: Port-au-Prince
- Population: 10.2 million
- Area:27,750 sq km (10,714 sq miles)
- Major languages: Creole, French
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 61 years (men), 64 years (women)
- Currency: Gourde