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Afghan children also risk being in near-slavery

The Dec. 15 article on bonded labor in Pakistan, "In Pakistan, 'slavery' persists," doesn't mention the group most vulnerable to this form of near-slavery: Afghan refugees.

Often living in poverty and marginalized within Pakistani society, Afghan refugees are easy prey to those offering "loans" to people in need. More than 1.5 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan.

A recent study on Pakistan's brick-kiln industry by the Afghan Women's Resource Center, for example, found that 80 percent of the workers are Afghan refugees, many of whom are trapped in bonded labor trying to pay off loans.

Young boys are often drawn into working to help repay family loans; this forces them to experience one of the worst forms of child labor. Conditions in the kilns are deplorable and dangerous.

The international community must investigate Pakistan's brick-kiln industry, as well as its widespread problem of child labor; thousands of Afghan refugee children work in the carpet-weaving industry; many others are garbage pickers. We cannot allow these abuses to continue.
Megan McKenna
New York Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

Double funding for fighting AIDS

Regarding John Hughes's Dec. 10 Opinion column "Glimmer of hope, but miles to go on AIDS": AIDS is devastating poor African societies. At current rates, experts predict AIDS will kill 70 million people by 2020, compared with 20 million in its first 20 years. It is expected to leave 25 million children orphaned by 2010.

We are in the midst of a disaster that will destabilize countries and make them ripe for terrorist activity. A recent report estimated that a girl child born in Southern Africa today has a greater chance of contracting HIV than of learning to read. We should lobby Congress to double the amount it spends in the global fight against AIDS.
Tim Tower
Seattle

Working for government spending
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