Amidst the Devastation, Haiti's Connections to UNICEF & The Red Cross


By Alexander Haimann, Collections Specialist, Smithsonian National Postal Museum

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the tiny Caribbean nation of Haiti. Aside from the destruction of homes, businesses, municipal buildings and related infrastructure, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are believed to be seriously injured or dead from the earthquake and its aftermath.

To learn more about how you can help the relief efforts for the victims of the January 12, 2010 earthquake click on the CNN List of Relief Funds.

Haiti & The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

On October 24, 1945, less than two months after the Japanese surrender on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay ending World War II, the United Nations charter was ratified. As one of the original signatories of the charter, Haiti also became a member of the United Nations on that October day. Fifteen years later, Haiti issued three stamps, one regular postage stamp and two airmail stamps to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the UN. All three stamps featured the UN Headquarters in New York City.

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First Day of Issue United Nations cover with three Haitian stamps

Six weeks after the UN 15th anniversary stamps were issued, Haiti re-issued the same stamp designs with black overprints indicating an additional 25-centimes would be added to the price of the stamp at the time of purchase. This additional 25-centimes was being raised for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which came in to existence on December 11, 1946 by vote of the UN General Assembly. Countries all over the world including the United States have issued postage stamps known as Semi-Postals to raise money for various charitable causes.

The cover (shown above) features all three of the 1961 Haiti UNICEF Semi-Postal stamps used on the first day of their issuance in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Almost 49 years to the day of the UNICEF Semi-Postal stamps release, the recent 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Now instead of helping to raise money for UNICEF, Haiti is the recipient of desperately needed supplies from that organization.

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Three Haitian stamps featuring the United Nations building

The Haitian Red Cross

On May 8, 1960, Haiti celebrated the 28th anniversary of the Haitian Red Cross by overprinting airmail stamps issued by Haiti in 1945 to commemorate the International Red Cross. Several of the denominations issued for the Haitian Red Cross anniversary are showcased below on a cover with the stamps canceled on the first day of their issuance, May 8, 1960. This date also coincided with the 25th anniversary of V-E Day, the German surrender in World War II.

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Ten République d'Haïti stamps

A Brief History of Haiti

Following Christopher Columbus' 1492 discovery of Hispaniola, the island on which present day Haiti is located, Spain dominated the island for over one hundred years. In the 1600s, the French began settling part of the island and in 1697, Spain ceded France the western area of the island (the area of present day Haiti). In 1804, the same year France sold the United States the Louisiana Territory, the population of slaves in Haiti rebelled against the French. The slaves' successful revolt led to the establishment of the first black republic to declare independence from a European power. Haiti is the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States. In the twentieth century, Haiti experienced prolonged periods of conflict, foreign occupation and political turmoil. Currently the United States is by far Haiti's largest trading partner.

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Alex Haimann

About the Author
Alexander T. Haimann, Collections Specialist & Web Projects Developer at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, collects and writes primarily about the stamps and postal history of the U.S. during the first one hundred years of stamp production (1847-1947). Additionally, he develops internet based education projects and exhibits for the National Postal Museum. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Stamp Dealers Association, the Chair of the American Philatelic Society’s Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship and the publicist for the United State Philatelic Classics Society. His national and international society memberships include the American Philatelic Society, United States Stamp Society, Collectors Club of New York and the Royal Philatelic Society London.