Haiti is one of the original members of the UN and participates in many of its specialized agencies. The country maintains diplomatic relations with most European and Latin American countries, although most do not maintain embassies in Haiti. To help his country emerge from poverty and become a player in the global market, Aristide must attempt to make amends with donor countries, which include Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, as well as the United States. These are also the countries that would be likely sources of foreign economic investment.
In 1998, Haitians, already the poorest people in the Americas, saw their economy suffer from the forces of nature, as well as their own politicians. A hurricane devastated the economy, damaged rice crops, and left hundreds dead. Political instability has caused most investors such as the United States to only offer the most basic humanitarian aid, the funds for which are often received by agencies outside the government.
Drug-running has grown considerably. Since 1999, Haitian police have been attempting to close down a network that carries drugs from Colombia through Haiti to the United States and other destinations. Six of the police themselves were detained on suspicion of theft. They were believed to have stolen the majority of a haul of cocaine that was discovered in a boat headed for Miami. U.S. government officials estimate 20% of drugs now reaching the United States pass through Haiti. The police of Haiti decided to intensify the fight on drug trafficking as a means of lowering crime in general, but the country still remains a trafficking hub.
In April 2003, the UN issued an emergency appeal to the international community for US $84 million to combat Haiti's humanitarian crisis, which the UN calculated was destined to worsen. The UN reported that 56% of Haiti's population suffers from malnutrition, only 46% has access to clean drinking water, and 42% live below the poverty line. Money for the emergency response program would provide aid for 18 months to address Haiti's needs for food, improved water and sanitation, access to health care, and mitigation of natural disasters. The aid would also help farmers resume production of their crops, provide immunizations against communicable diseases, and rebuild roads. In addition, more help is needed to combat Haiti's HIV/AIDS epidemic; Haiti has the highest rate of HIV infection in the Americas.
The U.S. Attorney General's office and the U.S. State Dept. maintained in April 2003 that third-country nationals, especially Pakistanis and Palestinians, were using Haiti as an illegal entry point into the United States. Haiti denied the allegations.