University City

Bringing water to thirsty South Sudan

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan secured its independence after a long and terrible civil war. This second war of the 20th century and its famine-related effects resulted in more than 4 million people displaced and more than 2 million deaths over two decades, according to the CIA.

As refugees pour in from northern territories and global relief agencies work to provide assistance and relief to refugees and residents, much of the poor population continues to live in unsanitary conditions with little access to clean water.

In fact, the UNESCO, the United Nations Sudan Information Gateway and the CIA estimate only 50 percent of residents have access to "improved" drinking water and only 6.4 percent have access to "improved" sanitary facilities.

Even though South Sudan is more than 6,500 miles away, south Charlotte can still affect and improve living conditions for those people.

Sherry Roese of Matthews is working with Water is Basic, an organization started by her brother-in-law.

The mission of Water is Basic is to drill a thriving, clean water well in every village in Sudan. Water is Basic is one of many charitable organizations worldwide working in South Sudan and equatorial Africa to bring water relief.

"Africa grabbed my heart several years ago," Roese said. "When you visit and see people drinking dirty water, you can't help but be motivated to change the situation. (I've learned) that women and children spend 75 percent of their time gathering water, which means there is little time to find food or to go to school. They are also in danger traveling miles to get water, both from strangers and the environment itself, like wild animals."

Roese first visited South Sudan in 2005 as part of a women's leadership conference that taught local women the basics of managing their own businesses.

On March 31, Charlotte can help bring clean water to South Sudan by sponsoring or participating in the Carry the Jerry 5K and Relay.

The Carry the Jerry 5K has two divisions. Participants can sign up for the traditional 5K, which will start at Bank of America Stadium uptown, or teams of any size can sign up for the Jerry Can relay. A Jerry Can is a 5-gallon plastic jug (weighing 42 pounds) that African women and children carry several miles daily to collect water.

Roese is organizing the fundraising event in Charlotte and said, "We want people to identify with the hardship African women and children experience when they carry their daily amount of water for miles. The amount of water a South Sudanese (person) has access to in one day equals the amount of one toilet flush here."