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Aid agency warns against privatisation of water

Nearly a quarter of the world's population does not have access to drinking water Keystone

A Swiss aid agency has launched a campaign to prevent the privatisation of water. The agency, Helvetas, said access to clean water was a basic human right and urged the Swiss government to support an international convention governing its use.

Launching the campaign in Berne on Thursday, the head of Helvetas, Werner Külling, said water could not be treated as just a commodity.

He said 1,4 billion people were still without access to safe drinking water, and that illnesses affecting half of Africa’s population were directly related to a shortage of clean water.

Külling said privatisation was seen as a magic solution to any and all problems affecting the world, but in the case of water, it would have a devastating effect on the world’s poorest people.

He added that private business had no interest in helping the poor, and governments needed to work together to ensure that everyone had a right to water.

Külling’s colleague, Rosmarie Bär, urged Switzerland to support efforts to keep water under the control of democratically elected governments, saying it should not be allowed to fall into the hands of multinationals.

She cited the experience of England and parts of Germany, where water has been privatised, leading to higher prices and poorer quality and services.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR