First the crops died. The potato and cassava and taro withered away in the dusty earth, leaving little but their stunted roots behind. Next the rainwater tanks dried up. By the end of 2015, the people of Rarata village, in the eastern Malaita province, were walking up to 7km every day to quench their thirst, carrying whatever buckets or containers they could find. And then the children began to get sick. "Diarrhoea. Cough. Red Eye," says Annie Hamer, a mum-of-three, who was born and lives in Rarata. "The children didn't go to school. They just stayed at home. We feel very worried." Across the Pacific families and villages were facing the same challenges. A prolonged dry season, the result of an extreme El Nino event, had run even traditional water sources dry. In Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and Vanuatu it was particularly bad, with wholesale crop death and illness caused by poor quality water. In the Solomons, water was rationed. Schools and health centres were closed, but for most it was too late. • Read more: Hidden Pacific: Q&A "The children were so thirsty," says Annie. "They drank from puddles on the ground, where the insects had died. That's why they got sick." Annie sits in Rarata's meeting "hall", an open-air shelter with long tables and a thatched roof. Next to her are four other mothers, most with babies, who nod as she describes the stress they went through having to walk for water each day. "It's too hard for us to go for the long walk for the water when it's dry season. It's not really good for us," she says. Eventually, in mid-2016, the drought eased. But the ongoing effects on the crop failures are still being felt. In response, the community decided to work on a dam, to prevent a repeat event. Annie says they asked the Government for support. When none came, they turned to World Vision, who run several other programmes in the area.