Hilarious article today in The Times about the new intricacies of courtship in India – the message being given to men is: “No toilet, no bride.”

Except you delve a little deeper into the article and quickly realise this story is more tragedy than comedy.

Many countries are in the same position as India – where millions of people are forced to defecate in the open because they have no toilets. In fact three billion people – that’s half the world’s population! – don’t have proper sanitation facilities. Not only does this cause massive spread of disease, it causes humiliation and can be dangerous.

Imagine not having a toilet in your house. Not even in your garden. Imagine being desperate to poo in the middle of the night. Your only choice is to go out and make your way to the bush where last week your mate was bitten by a poisonous snake. It’s a familiar scenario if you live in Africa.

Last month, I was in Liberia where I heard story after story about the difference latrines built by the Red Cross community-based health programme have made in people’s lives.

Man entering a latrine

It’s easy to underestimate the difference such programmes make to communities when you don’t have to think twice about where you’re going to take your next poo. This was brought home to me by a bizarre

conversation I had with one guy, who asked me how many people in my country had their own toilet. When I told him everyone had a toilet, he asked if we had any unemployment in the country. I told him we did. Then he asked if even these people had their own toilet. It felt like an outrageous statement but I assured him they did.

Find out more about Red Cross water and sanitation work.