Blake Jennings
Blake Jennings campaign leader

Every hour, one Filipino child dies because of debt-related poverty. Millions of children die every year in the Third World because they are too poor to buy food or medicines. Their families work extraordinary hours to earn less than $2 a day. Filthy slums with inhumane living conditions are prolific in most countries in the world, and are no longer exclusive to the third world.

An estimated 100 million children live and work on the streets in the developing world, including 40 million in Latin America. Although many of these street children have some family links, they spend most of their lives on the streets begging, selling trinkets, shining shoes or washing cars to supplement their families' income. These children rarely go beyond a fourth-grade education. The 25 million children without families live in the streets with other street children. They sleep in abandoned buildings, under bridges, in doorways, or in public parks.

These young victims of debt resort to petty theft and prostitution to survive. Many are addicted to inhalants which offer them an escape from reality and hunger pains -- in exchange for a host of physical and psychological problems, including hallucinations, pulmonary edema, kidney failure, and irreversible brain damage. These children are abused, even murdered, by the people who are supposed to protect them.

"His name was Nahamán, a 13 year old in Guatemala. One night, while walking on the streets, he was kicked to death by four policemen who found him and decided to punish him. His crime? He was a street kid ... a subhuman without pedigree, a vexing reminder of Guatemala's malignant inclinations, the mortifying embodiment of a fallen society, a scapegoat. And, in death, a martyr. When we buried Nahamán on March 14th, 1990, his gravestone read: 'I only wanted to be a child, but they wouldn't let me'."

While indebted countries struggle to pay mounting interest on debt loans, their hospitals, schools, water supply, electricity, and public transport deteriorate rapidly with reduced budgets. Disease, destitution and general lack of sanitation characterise many Third World cities. The children who do survive are unable to read and write as government budgets for health and education are cut to the bone as a result of debt service. In Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, the government spends three times more on debt repayment than on health and education.

Sub-Saharan Africa pays $10 billion every year in debt service. The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing a pandemic with terrible consequences. In South Africa one in five people has HIV-AIDS, and in Zimbabwe one in four. One in seven Kenyans has the virus. In Botswana, the country with the highest rate of infection in the world, more than one-third of all adults are HIV positive. Twenty million people, or the entire population of Australia, have died in Sub-Saharan Africa since the pandemic began. If current trends continue, there will be than 40 million AIDS orphans in Africa by the end of this decade.

Despite their extreme health crisis, 23 African countries spend more money on debt repayment than they spend on healthcare, which attracts only $2.5 billion, or a quarter of their debt service.

It’s time to cancel the interest owed and all interest rates for third world debt!

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