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Conflicts between various groups are as old as time. Peoples and tribes around have fought one another for thousands of years. Haiti occupies a land that was once the richest area in the Western Hemisphere. In the late eighteenth century, when Haiti was still a French colony, the land was so productive that most of the French Fleet was devoted to Haitian trade. Throughout its history Haiti has been divided between a tiny educated elite, which holds most of the wealth and political power, and a large underclass with little or no power. Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Many Haitians have left their impoverished land; others have tried to leave and been sent back. Most Haitians struggle to find enough to eat each day. They live in run-down or cardboard houses, have little or no education, and suffer from disease and malnutrition. Many Haitians cannot find jobs, and even those who work do not earn enough to support their families.

Although Haiti is only about the size of Maryland, its population is estimated to be nearly 8 million people. The average population density is 618 people per square mile, but with 2 million people living in Port-au-Prince, over-population is a major problem in the cities. Haiti does not have enough productive farmland to support its population. Most Haitians live in near-famine conditions, with close to a million people receiving food from private aid agencies.

Haiti's medical system struggles to cope with the nation's serious health problems. There is only one physician for every 15,064 inhabitants, and medical facilities are poor. Malaria, dengue, intestinal parasites, yaws, AIDS, and other infectious diseases are common. Foreign governments and several international organizations, including the UN and the OAS, provide food and medicine to Haiti, but the scope of the country's problems overwhelms these efforts. Haiti's social services are similarly limited.

Typically countries with inadequate agricultural resources try to develop other sectors of the economy wealth to import food, but Haiti's industrial and service economies are extremely limited. In the 1970s, numerous foreign-owned assembly plants, especially U.S.-owned factories, opened in Haiti. They attracted people from rural areas who could no longer support their families by farming the overworked land, and those who could not sell rice at low enough cost to compete with cheaper, imported rice. Political instability and increased regional competion, led to a decline in foreign investments in Haiti, leaving many Haitians jobless. Haiti's economic crisis is severe, and the standard of living in Haiti is correspondingly low. In 1997 about 70 percent of Haiti's adult population was underemployed. Per capita income- the average amount of money earned by one person in one year was less that $250, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.

Language divides Haitians as well as racial distinctions. French and Creole are recognized as the official languages of Haiti, French is the language of power-the language taught in schools and learned by the children



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