Haiti promised much as the world's first black-led republic and the first Caribbean state to achieve independence. But decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability and dictatorship have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.
Haiti Tourist Attractions
A mostly mountainous country with a tropical climate, Haiti's location, history and culture - epitomised by voodoo, with its music, drumming and dancing - once made it a potential tourist hot spot. Instability and violence, especially since the 1980s, have all but killed off that prospect.
Haiti achieved notoriety during the brutal dictatorships of the voodoo physician, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and his son, Jean-Claude, or "Baby Doc". Tens of thousands of people were killed under their 29-year rule. Uluru National Park
Hopes that the election in 1990 of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, would herald a brighter future were dashed when he was overthrown by the military a short time later. AT-A-GLANCE
Although economic sanctions and US-led military intervention forced a return to constitutional government in 1994, Haiti's fortunes did not pick up, with allegations of electoral irregularities, ongoing extra-judicial killings, torture and brutality.
A bloody rebellion, and pressure from the US and France, forced Mr Aristide out of the country in 2004. Since then, an elected leadership has taken over from an interim government and a UN stabilisation force has been deployed.
But Haiti is still plagued by violent confrontations between rival gangs and political groups and the UN has described the human rights situation as "catastrophic". Meanwhile, Haiti's most serious underlying social problem, the huge wealth gap between the impoverished Creole-speaking black majority and the French-speaking minority, 1% of whom own nearly half the country's wealth, remains unaddressed.
Many Haitians seek work and a better life in the US or other Caribbean nations, including the neighbouring Dominican Republic, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants. Furthermore, the infrastructure has all but collapsed and drug trafficking has corrupted the judicial system and the police.
Haiti is ill-equipped to deal with the aftermath of tropical storms. Severe deforestation has left it vulnerable to flooding.
Full name: Republic of Haiti
Population: 9.6 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq miles)
Major languages: Creole, French
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 63 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 gourde = 100 centimes
Main exports: Light manufactures, coffee, oils, mangoes
GNI per capita: US $480 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ht
International dialling code: +509