Lito Eduardo, a 12-year-old boy in Mozambique, is among the 40 percent of people in his country who don't have access to clean, safe water. As a result, he wakes up at 2 a.m., hours before dawn, and hikes two and a half miles to fetch water from a river well and perform the backbreaking task of lugging it home. If he left any later, the line would be too long to allow him to do anything else during the day.
"The first to reach the well is the first to collect water; there are so many who depend on it," he says.
Despite waking so early, Lito is usually late for school, and Lito's mother will need to make two more trips for water during the day. "I do not have time to help my husband in the field," she says.
The time and effort needed to find water creates a domino effect for Lito's family. Lito suffers in school because he misses class. His mother can't help in the fields because she's carrying water from the river. His father's productivity on the farm suffers without help from the rest of the family, resulting in meager meals for his wife and seven children.
It's nearly impossible for us to imagine what life would be like without access to clean water.
Most of us turn a knob in the morning and hot water squirts from the showerhead. We brush our teeth over a sink with clean, flowing water. Perhaps we fill a glass of water from the dispenser in the door of the fridge and drop a load of laundry into the washing machine. We're entirely dependent on clean water for a variety of uses all before leaving for work in the morning. It's a luxury we don't think about, but that 783 million people around the world go without.
We know exactly how to fix this situation. In fact, just this month the United Nations announced that the world has met one of its first Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule: cutting in half the number of people who do not have access to clean water by 2015.
In the last 20 years, more than two billion people have received a local water source. Through organizations like World Vision and Water4, millions are gaining access to water inexpensively and on a sustainable basis. But with more than 780 million people still without water, there is much more work to do. And there is still a long way to go to improve sanitation and hygiene so that water supplies are not polluted.
Lack of clean water is more than an inconvenience or an everyday hardship. Without access to safe water, every area of your life is affected. Your whole day consumed with, "How do I get water?"
Communities lacking safe sources of water experience hunger, poor education for their children, and are constantly at risk of illness and death as a result of water-borne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, 10 percent of global diseases could be prevented by providing access to water as well as sanitation and hygiene. More than 6,000 children die each day, most under the age of 5, from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.
Gaining a safe and accessible source of water radically transforms communities like Lito's. While costs can vary, World Vision dug a borehole well for the northern Mozambique village of Nihessiue at a rate of roughly $50 per person. After the 500 families in Lito's community received a well supplying clean water, he said, "Now when I wake up I do not bother fetching water; I only sweep the yard. I can go to school for all of my classes." Their new well, his mother says, "means more food on the table as now I can help my husband with farming. We have increased the size of our garden and hope that we have a good harvest this year."
In many cases, Water4 doubles the impact of this work as they train crews to operate small businesses drilling wells and performing maintenance work. These jobs bring more benefit to rural communities.
This kind of progress is making a difference. Lito, and everyone else in the world, deserves safe, local water, just as most of us enjoy each morning. We have the means to achieve it. The only question is, Are we willing to make it happen?