The 2010 earthquake hit a country which already had chronic problems. The economy was desolate - at least one-third of national income is remittances from Haitians who have fled to the USA.
Bribery and corruption were commonplace. Years of incompetent and brutally corrupt government, with frequent coups, or attempted coups, had seen the infrastructure of roads, bridges, buildings (many dating from the short US occupation in the 1915-34) deteriorate, and public services - health, education, dissolve. Unemployment was nationally around 80% and 100% in some places.
Today, the Presidential Palace, and most main government buildings, stand in ruins mostly untouched since the earthquake - a potent symbol of a largely-powerless government.
Haiti was the first of the Caribbean nations to gain independence from slavery, overthrowing French dominion in 1804. However, Haiti had to pay France a huge indemnity for this independence. This sum (US$12.7 billion at today's value) was taken, stifling development. It was not paid off until 1947.
In some ways, Haiti has stood still since independence. Haitians are widely characterised by a deep sense of despair and dependency. Many believe that they can do nothing to help themselves, and that nothing they try will succeed (so what's the point?). The only hope is for the white man to come and change things. The most realistic hope is to find a way to go to the USA.
The country is desperately needy. Following the earthquake millions of people have been re-housed in plastic tents or cabins, usually (but not always) with some clean water and sanitation. But there they are stuck. No decision has been made about wide-spread replacement of the destroyed homes. Port au Prince remains a sea of rubble.
The sheer scale of the task, and the difficulty of achieving anything in the Haitian context, threatens to defeat even the combined aid efforts of world governments and agencies.
Christians in Haiti
Haiti is a profoundly Christian country. In many parts 90% of the population will be in church on Sunday - usually Roman Catholic, but also including the many fiery charismatic churches. Many of the latter lack trained leadership, and truth is sometimes defined by who can shout loudest. Leadership training is critically needed.
Sadly, however, a large percentage of those Sunday worshippers will often follow voodoo throughout the week, whether attending ceremonies or making various offerings through their daily lives. In some ways, Christ has become for many another spirit to be propitiated, if one less frightening than others.
Bible teaching and discipleship training are perhaps the most critically needs of the Haitian church, so that it's witness might have integrity and true power.
Many churches have sought to be involved in the relief efforts.