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Charity closes off public toilets in major cities

Helvetas barricades public toilets

Charity organization Helvetas is blocking access to public toilets in centres of cities including Geneva, Zurich and Bern to draw attention to the fact that 2.6 billion people worldwide do not have any access to sanitary installations.

The aid organisation aims to symbolically barricade dozens of toilets in major locations in every major Swiss city on World Toilet Day, spokesman Matthias Herfeldt told

A handful of volunteers are going around the cities to bar the doors of public and semi-public toilets and latrines with red and white tape and signs saying “occupied”, “closed”, “defect” or “out of order”, Herfeldt said.

As part of the international campaign “End Water Poverty”, Helvetas wants to inform the public that more than 3,000 children die every day from diarrhea caused by germs in unclean water.

Countries would have to invest $17 billion (SFr16 billion) every year for more than 20 years to provide access to sanitary installations for everybody, the charity said. That would correspond to the amount spent worldwide on defense in four days.

Every franc invested in clean water has a three- to five-fold higher social and economic benefit, according to an efficacy study by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

Helvetas wants the Swiss government to contribute an additional SFr100 million every year to help provide clean water and sanitary installations worldwide.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR