Haiti became the world's first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century.
But chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas.
UN peacekeepers were deployed in 2004 to restore order after an uprising, and more than 10,000 uniformed personnel remain on the ground. The mission has drawn controversy, including allegations of excessive force.
Moreover, many Haitians are struggling with the legacy of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake which devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010. More than 250,000 people were killed. Hundreds of thousands more were left homeless, and many of them still live in tent cities.
Students take their lessons at a Catholic church in Haiti, which is still struggling to rebuild after the 2010 quake
These woes have been compounded by a subsequent cholera epidemic which has killed more than 7,000 people.
Billions of dollars in aid, pledged to Haiti after the earthquake, have been slow to arrive amid donors' concerns about corruption.
Poor infrastructure is another obstacle to investment and environmental degradation is a major concern. But officials have touted Haiti's tourism potential and there has been some success with exports of crops, including mangoes.
Political volatility, civil unrest and crime pose serious challenges to development. And the huge wealth gap between the impoverished Creole-speaking black majority and the French-speaking minority remains unaddressed.
With unemployment running at around 40%, 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.
Tourism in Haiti is an industry that has generated just under a million arrivals in 2012, and is one of the main sources of revenue for the island. With its favorable climate, second longest coastline of beaches and most mountainous ranges in the Caribbean, waterfalls, underground caves,colonial architecture and distinct cultural history, Haiti has had its history as an attractive destination for tourists. However, unstable governments have long contested its history and the country's economic development throughout the 20th century.
The Haitian Carnival has been one of the most popular carnivals in the Caribbean. In 2010, the government decided to stage the event in a different city outside of Port-au-Prince every year in an attempt to decentralize the country.The National Carnival which is usually held in one of the country's largest cities (i.e., Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien or Les Cayes), follows the also very popular Jacmel Carnival which takes place a week earlier in February or March.