A Quick History and Explanation of Haiti's problems (no, not just the earthquake)
As you may have guessed that is Haiti on the left. It is 98% deforested. But more on that later. First for the history:
We will start in 1492 with some Italian (yes he was from Italy, Spain commissioned him) named Cristopher Columbus when he and his weary band of travelers landed. Dave Barry described the landing as follows (paraphrased):
Columbus: "ah, I am glad that we have made it to India"
Native: "This isn't India"
Columbus: "Look, were tired, hungry, and we have our cannons pointed at your wigwams!"
Native: "Welcome to India"
The Spaniards followed shortly with death, destruction, and slaves not far behind. The Spanish held the whole Island until 1697 when the French drew up a very franco-friendly treaty which gave them Haiti. Slaves, sugar production, and overall misery for all but the select few whites in the land continued.
In the early 1800's a large slave revolt occured, led by Toussaint l'Ouverture. The French came in to reclaim the colonies but the majority of the troops died of yellow fever and they withdrew (not, however, before kidnapping l'ouverture).
Independance followed (which was very tumultuous, including a number of dictators, coups, and another French attempt to retake Haiti) until 1915, when, under Woodrow Wilson, the US invaded and took control and stayed put until 1934 (pulled out under Roosevelt). During our stay we established a constitution, built roads, schools, and tried to bring stability. I, personally, don't think this justifys occupation of another country but that is just me.
In any case the slide toward heck continued in 1957 when Papa Doc became president (aka dictator) followed by his son: baby doc who ruled until he was ousted in 1986. During this time a number of the problems that we see today developed.
Since then it has been nothing but social unrest and political corruption. Numerous leaders have come offering improvement and none have delivered.
98% deforested. Lumber, whether for cooking, building, etc. was one of the few ways that people could survive and they readily chopped down trees, leaving the place a barren desert. There are restoration projects under way but erosion is a major problem and not much has been done.
The poorest country in the western hemisphere. absolutely atrocious living conditions.
Most Haitians live on $2 or less per day.
Haiti has 50% illiteracy, and
over 80% of college graduates from Haiti have emigrated, mostly to the United States.
Poverty has forced at least 225,000 children in Haiti's cities into slavery, working as unpaid household servants.
About 66% of all Haitians work in the agricultural sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming. Nice but when you don't have enough areable land it isn't so good.
Some have been forced to eating dirt. Literaly.
No native (polynesian) people survive today.
Then of course, you have the earthquake which affected about 1/3 of the population. Things just keep getting worse.
So folks, do what you can. Assist with what you can but when you do, make sure it doesn't go through the government.