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Date: Sun, 11 Oct 98 13:15:45 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: HAITI: Not Enough Services for Fast-Growing Population
Article: 45042
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.403.19981012181546@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** reg.carib: 207.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: HAITI: Not Enough Services for Fast-Growing Population **
** Written 3:57 PM Oct 5, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:reg.carib **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

Not Enough Services for Fast-Growing Population

By Ives-Marie Chanel, IPS, 2 October 1998

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 2 (IPS) - Even promised investment dollars may be too little, too late if Haiti's population keeps growing at its current pace, says the U.N. Population Fund (UNPFA).

The Haitian population is increasing by 200,000 persons or 2.3 percent each year, according to the UNFPA. It now stands at an estimated eight million, surpassing projections made in 1980 for the year 2003. At this rate, there will be almost 10 million people in the Caribbean nation by the year 2010 and 20 million by 2040, the UNFPA predicts in a recently released report on Haiti.

The percentage of Haitians living in cities rose from 12 percent in 1950 to 37 percent in 1997. In 2010, 55 percent of Haitians are expected to be living in urban areas, and the capital, Port-au-Prince, will be home to four million people. These estimates do not include the two million Haitians living abroad, half of them in the United States.

The report was drawn up jointly by the UNFPA and two non-governmental organizations, MSH-HS 2004 and Futures Group-Policy Project. It indicates that 10,000 people slip out of Haiti each year on boats bound for Florida and the Bahamas, trips that often prove dangerous and costly.

It notes that the rate of population increase in the cities is approximately four times that of the country as a whole.

The report notes that massive migration from rural areas to cities ill prepared to receive them has had a destabilizing effect on the fabric of urban life, especially where jobs, transport, and housing are concerned.

Of the 60,000 jobs lost in Port-au-Prince after a military coup d'etat in 1991, only 30 percent have been revived following the restoration of constitutional rule in 1994. The capital's streets are awash with vendors who have transformed it into a giant market for food, used and new clothing, car parts, petroleum products and pharmaceuticals.

Traffic in the capital has also become completely disorganised, creating huge bottlenecks and worrisome pollution. The number of automobiles has gone from 90,000 to 120,000 in just a year. The lion's share of these vehicles, 98.75 percent, are located in Port- au-Prince, where they travel over poorly maintained roads and vie for inadequate parking space.

Experts also point to the considerable increase in rents and the growing number of homeless people. Unregulated construction is taking place everywhere, creating huge slums over marshlands, on the slopes of ravines and mountains, even on the edges of dams and drainage sluices, where population density can approach 45,000 per square kilometre.

The farm sector employs 70 percent of the labour force, but only accounts for 31 percent of national income. (The United States employs just three percent of its population in agriculture but produces enough surplus to export.)

Other social statistics are also far from encouraging: illiteracy in the countryside is estimated at 72 percent; population growth in the countryside is 4 percent while in cities it is 1 percent; in 1995, 3.3 million rural Haitians were poor.

Sixty-three percent of the original forest in Haiti has been destroyed, 63 percent of the land cannot be cultivated since it slopes at an angle of more than 20 percent. Each year, 6,000 hectares of arable land is rendered useless as 15 to 20 million trees are chopped down for fuel.

Of the 16 water-supply areas which existed in 1978, only 5 are expected to make it to the year 2002.

Haiti has a population density of 250 inhabitants per square kilometre, compared to an average of 23 in the rest of the Caribbean. There was 0.24 hectare of arable land per person in 1993, but only 0.13 by 1995.

Potable water is available to only 37 percent of the population in Port-au-Prince, 47 percent in the smaller cities, and 23 percent in the countryside, according to the report, which states that quick action is needed to stabilize population growth and improve the quality of life of all Haitians.

Pierre-Marie Boisson, chief economist of the country's largest bank, said he was concerned about the population problem which, he added, stood to hold back social, economic, and environmental progress.

Boisson emphasized the strategic importance of planning for the health centers and schools which will be needed and the types of economic policies to adopt to absorb the population influx into Port-au-Prince. State officials, he said, should be thinking about reducing the demand for jobs. (END/IPS/imc/kb/sz/kb/98)