Less than 20km north of where Lila and Ibrahim sit, a Pakistan Red Crescent team has set up a mobile water treatment plant. The small trailer carrying purification equipment can produce up to 30,000 litres of water a day, enough drinking water for about 4,000 people. Water is drawn from an underground well and then passed through the filtration system in the trailer. From there it is stored in two huge rubber bladders, which feed a tap stand set up on the roadside. A steady stream of villagers arrive at the tap stand, many having walked for hours to collect clean drinking water.
A group of a dozen women from a distant village have stopped 100 meters up the road. The Red Crescent team leader talks quietly to the men who are waiting to fill their containers. They nod politely and quickly finish collecting their water before leaving the water point. Moments later, the white robes of the men are replaced by brightly coloured saris – greens, oranges and blues – as the women fill their jerrycans or talk to the Red Crescent volunteers. For the five volunteers, the work is just as much about hygiene education as it is supplying clean water. The more people they talk to the further the message will spread.
The local landowner, whose property everyone in the area lives on and farms, stops by and invites us to sit and talk with him. Sitting in the shade, one of his staff serves green lemonade, and we talk about the social impact of disasters, the pitch on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the best way to lay bricks.
Across the road, the group of women have started the long journey home. The Red Crescent team leader explains that this will be the last time they need to walk from their village. Red Crescent has secured two water trucks, which will extend their reach to about 15km. I can’t help but think it’s still achingly short of Lila and Ibrahim.