A U.N. human rights expert says Haiti is suffering a "modern form of slavery" in the widespread use of children as house laborers.

Gulnara Shahinian says hundreds of thousands of youngsters are forced to work as what are known as "restaveks." It is a Creole word meaning "to stay with."

Most child workers are given away by poor parents unable to care for them. The children work for families nearly as poor and suffer physical and sexual abuse.

The practice is widely known in Haiti but is rarely publicly discussed.

After wrapping up a weeklong study of the situation Wednesday, Shahinian said Haiti's government should help the youngsters by setting up a national children's commission and providing alternative income for poor families.