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  • Relatives walk behind the hearse during the funeral of a woman who died during Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti, Oct. 18, 2016.

    Relatives walk behind the hearse during the funeral of a woman who died during Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti, Oct. 18, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

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The out of control industry is booming for freelancers and hustlers, but leaving many poor families with crippling debt. 

The pain from the death of a loved one is hard enough, but for many Haitians the economic cost of burying family members has hit unprecedented levels, even for the most basic of funeral services. Fueled by predatory businesses preying on loss and grief, where many have no other options, exorbitant prices are forcing many Haitians into serious debts, according to a new report by the Associated Press.

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Haiti is already known as the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the western hemisphere, with high levels of extreme poverty and people living on an average of less than US$2 a day.

Those profiting off the funeral industry in the country are known to charge more for a simple ceremony than the average yearly salary. The average funeral cost in the country was around US$5,000, according to a 2012 report by the Igarape Institute from Brazil.

Bargaining is commonplace for funeral services, but many poorer families pay too much, as they don't believe they can negotiate the costs as well as middle-class people. Those working in morgues and hospitals are known to get commissions for funeral packages, and brass bands and even mourners are all for hire as part of the packages.

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In the capital of Port-au-Prince, families are known to rent out spaces for bodies in a mausoleum because of the demand in the cemetery. When families fail to collect the remains, workers are known to have thrown out bodies left as skeletons.

Costs can also be heightened because of the tradition in the country, as Haitians are usually against cremation and favor open-casket funerals.

The only option for many Haitians to cover the costs is to pool funds from family and friends, sell their possessions, or get caught up in debts with high interests rates.

Freelancers working in the area are notorious for hustling families and friends of those who have died, a practice which those established in the industry say the state is doing little to quell.


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