Our Challenge

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, also making it one of the poorest countries in the world.


Haiti is a country with a long tumultuous history. Its story begins with the native Taino people whose laid-back Caribbean lifestyle was interrupted by the “discovery” of Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Spanish settlers saw the potential of Haiti’s fertile soil and tropical climate for sugar cane production. The Tainos were enslaved and forced to work on the plantations. Within a few decades, their population was wiped out.

The Spanish and French in control of Haiti then turned to another group of people to work the land, Africans. The Atlantic slave trade displaced millions of Africans bound for Haiti and its surrounding nations. For hundreds of years following European discovery, Haiti was hailed as the pearl of the Antilles for its lucrative bounty of sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, and indigo.

But while the Europeans were enjoying the wealth their slave labor provided, discontent was growing among the slaves in Haiti. In 1791, under Toussaint L’Overture, the slaves of Haiti staged a rebellion, and in 1804 became the first black republic in the world.

While the Haitian revolution cast off the shackles of slavery, Haitians eventually became prisoner to another – poverty.

  • 1,000s of children and adults die each day from preventable causes.
  • Haiti is ranked 168 out of the 194 countries of the world in GDP per capita.
  • 59% of Haitian citizens live under the poverty line.
  • Only 25% of Haitian citizens benefit from adequate sanitation.
  • Life expectancy at birth is 63.
  • One in every 5 children suffers from chronic malnutrition.
  • Infant mortality rate is 17%.
  • Haiti has 25 physicians for every 100,000 people.
  • Less than half of Haitians have access to safe water.
  • Over 50% of Haitians are unemployed.
  • Haiti fails to produce enough food and imports more than 50 percent for its population’s needs.
  • Half of the population earns less than $1 a day.

Statistics from CIA Factbook, The World Bank, WHO, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme.

Our Challenge in Haiti

By providing education, healthcare and economic development, COCINA works to reverse these statistics and fight poverty in Haiti with the greatest weapon – its people.



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