Mosul- Ruqaya, wearing pink trainers and a bright orange dress, walks down the hill with a dirty plastic jerrycan to fetch water from the Tigris river, a task that falls on the five-year-old girl because her father is sick.
She pauses by the roadside as a convoy of Iraqi Humvee vehicles hurtles past and then resumes her daily march to the Tigris River while helicopters buzz overhead.
According to Agence France, Ruqaya is not the only person to fetch water.
In the battle against jihadists in northern Iraq, the village of Sayramun was recaptured in February but remains as isolated as ever and crucially still has no drinking water.
Electricity has not been restored to Sayramun and the local water treatment plant also remains offline, forcing residents to drink boiled river water.
Access to water isn’t always much better in the many camps that have mushroomed around Mosul since Iraqi forces launched their operation to retake ISIS’ last major bastion in the country.
The camps are overcrowded, there isn’t enough bottled water for everybody and the water that is trucked in hasn’t always been adequately treated because too few plants are operational.
At one of the largest displacement camps in the area, in Hammam al-Alil, Yasser Ahmed is filling a jerrycan from a tank.
“They give us water bottles but not enough for drinking and cooking, so we use this water after filtering and boiling it,” the 37-year-old man said.
He explained that he then uses purification tablets distributed by the camp authorities to improve the quality of the water and use it for cooking.
Going back with his family to his neighborhood of Maamun in west Mosul is not an option, he said, because the water situation there is even worse and people are using polluted wells.
In Mosul, many residents are willing to brave the risk of ongoing fighting to go home but the lack of drinking water is holding them back.
“Temperatures are rising fast. People need safe drinking water and they will need a lot of it in the weeks and months ahead,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, told AFP.
The United Nations Development Program, which is spearheading reconstruction efforts in Iraq, “is doing everything possible to speed up repairs to water treatment plants”, Grande said.
“A lot of progress is being made but there is a huge amount still to do.”