AIS Provides COVID Relief On the Navajo Nation
COVID-19 Hits the Navajo Nation
COVID-19 was comparatively slow to come to the Navajo Nation. The first case was recorded over two months after the virus first appeared in the United States. But after it arrived the disease traveled with the speed and destruction of a forest fire. On May 27th it was announced that the Navajo Nation had surpassed New York to become the area with the highest per-capita infection rate in the U.S. The rapidity of the spread and the high rate of death were due mainly to a lack of infrastructure in this remote part of the country. There are also high rates of pre-existing conditions among citizens and lack of access to healthcare. About 40% of homes lack the running water necessary to follow the basic guidelines set forth by the CDC, and many homes are multigenerational. Both are factors that are believed to contribute to spread.
Curfews Contain Spread but Contribute to Difficulty
To combat the rising total of cases, this great nation initiated a mandatory weekend curfew. It was initially active for 8 weeks and has been recently reinstated due to a sharp increase in cases. Residents are required to stay at home starting Friday evening through Monday morning. There is also a strict weekday curfew between 8pm and 5am.
Many living within the Navajo Nation are hours away from the closest grocery store, something most people take for granted. We have been informed that cleaning supplies are nearly impossible to find at grocery stores on the reservation. This means that people have to travel even farther to find what they need in order to keep their families safe. These curfews and long distance to stores have made it extremely difficult for citizens to get supplies. It is especially difficult for elders who are dependent on family to get essentials. And for the households in quarantine – which number in the hundreds on any given day – getting what they need is made that much harder.
The reports we are hearing from those living on the Navajo Nation are dire. In a community where 1 in 3 children live in poverty, many children depend on school attendance in order to receive regular meals. As schools have been shut down for months, the food insecurity of low income families on the reservation has only deepened. Many low income children are only getting 1 meal a day. Many workers are losing their jobs after being exposed and going into quarantine, or as a result of the recession. Elders who live on roads only accessible by four wheel drive are close to starving because they aren’t able to get supplies.
Our main focus at AIS is providing educational scholarships and programs to Native American students. However, we often create special projects to meet the needs of our constituents. Due to the extreme challenges the Navajo Nation is facing, we opened up a project to provide food and supplies. On May 4th, 6th and 7th four semitruck trailers delivered 160,000 pounds of nonperishable goods to a meeting house. With the help of 45 missionaries from The Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints, Tribal Agencies, and surrounding communities, the goods were unloaded and divided into approximately 1,200 family boxes.
Each of these family boxes had enough provisions to provide for a family of 5 for four weeks. Once the boxes were ready, they were loaded into volunteer’s trucks and taken to cities throughout the Navajo Nation. These cities included Kayenta-New Mexico, Chinle-Arizona, Fort Defiance-Arizona, Tuba City-Arizona, and Monument Valley-Utah. Our goal was for the boxes to be delivered to the families most in need of them. We have made more deliveries since then, and will continue to provide supplies as the crisis persists.
How You Can Help
To help us in these efforts, please consider sponsoring a family box to be delivered this month by donating here. $15 will feed an individual for 1 week. $50 will feed an individual for 4 weeks. $250 will feed a family of 5 for a month. We appreciate your support as we work to provide relief to our constituents.