Haiti and the Dominican Republic: One island, two worlds

Speaking of Haiti, one of our fellow BNR followers asked the question recently – “Hati and Dominican republic are on the same island and experiencing the same climate . you do not see 15,000 Dominicans living under the bridge”. The story they posted the question on had to do with Central America, not Hispaniola. I thought it was interesting enough, though, to look for some further information. Here is what I found, and it is fascinating:

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: One island, two worlds

Palm trees, sandy beaches stretching for miles, a brilliant blue sea – at first glance, the Dominican Republic seems like a real paradise. Several million tourists visit the country each year. But the stunning landscape and the luxurious hotels mask the fact that the Dominican Republic actually belongs to the less wealthy countries in Latin America, and that it shares a border with Haiti, the poorest country in the western world.

Though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, they remain worlds apart. That’s seen, for instance, in the infrastructure. “The Dominican Republic has proper streets so that you can get from one place to another without serious problems,” Heinz Oelers, an expert on Latin America at the Christian charity Misereor says. In Haiti, on the other hand, “you often need an hour just to travel a few kilometers,” he adds.

It’s a similar picture in other areas too. According to the United Nations, only about 50 percent of Haitians can read and write (as opposed to nearly 90 percent in neighboring Dominican Republic) and child mortality rates in Haiti are three times higher than in the Dominican Republic.

Climate change hits Haiti hard

The huge differences between the two countries play a direct role in how far they are affected by climate change and how they’re dealing with the consequences.

Haiti’s huge coastline makes it especially vulnerable to hurricanes. Since all the country’s big cities are located on the coast, floods often have dramatic repercussions. The weak infrastructure hampers quick delivery of aid and emergency help during natural catastrophes. As a result, some 220,000 people were killed during an earthquake in early 2010.

Since no Haitian city has a regular electricity supply, for many residents wood remains the most important source of energy. That’s one reason why the island’s forest cover has largely disappeared.

The bare mountains lead to strong rains washing away the soil cover. That in turn makes life worse for the local residents since Haiti is densely populated and heavily rural.

Thick vegetation is needed to keep the soil intact, Heinz Oelers says. To do that “you could for instance combine forestry and food crop cultivation,” he says. “Instead of growing grain on large areas, you could turn to cultivating fruits such as cassava, bananas and avocados that grow well in the Tropics.” https://www.dw.com/en/haiti-and-the-dominican-republic-one-island-two-worlds/a-16593022

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