Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Its population is almost entirely descended from African slaves who were brought to Haiti by the tens of thousands by the French in the 1700’s to work as slaves on the island's sugarcane and indigo plantations. The Haitian people were held back for over three centuries by governments led by despots and dictators, among other things. A series of natural disasters, such as, the 2010 earthquake which killed almost 500,000 people and left more than a million homeless and a number of severe hurricanes, have set back the island's attempts to improve its economy and the lives of ordinary Haitians and severely damaged it's already limited infrastructure. Haiti is a Catholic country with over 85% of its population of 9-10 million saying they are Catholic. In spite of extremely limited resources, the Church is acknowledged to be the most effective institution in Haiti in all areas of daily life from education to healthcare to housing and nutrition.