Children `enslaved' by Third World debt crisis

The servicing of unpayable debts to the West is draining the Third World as surely as slavery drained the African continent for centuries, a new report by the charity Christian Aid claims. More than 1 million people are estimated to have died in passage during the Atlantic slave trade. But the modern debt crisis could cause the unnecessary deaths of 21 million children before the millennium, according to the report, "The New Abolitionists". Where slaves were once sold with a price attached to them, children are now born with a debt around their necks. In Tanzania, each new baby owes in the region of $250 (pounds 152) and in Mozambique $350 a head.

Andrew Simms, one of the report's authors, said: "Servicing the debt is as sure a drain on capital resources as the slave trade was a haemorrhage of human and social capital." He and co-author Jenny Reindorp argue the time is ripe, as the millennium approaches, for a new band of abolitionists to fight for the cancellation of Third World debt just as Clarkson and Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery. They claim the debts would have been written off if they had been owed by private companies. The dramatic comparisons with Old World slavery signal the intention of Christian Aid, and others in the Jubilee 2000 coalition on Third World debt, to put pressure on world leaders in the run-up to the G8 heads of state meeting in Birmingham in May to write off much of the debt.