The Navajo Nation has been the most hardest hit of any Native community by the COVID-19 pandemic of any reservation in the country, and is experiencing among the highest per capita rates of confirmed coronavirus cases in the nation, if not the highest.
As of June 21, the Navajo Nation Department of Health reported 6,990 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a total of 335 deaths.
Earlier this month, WebMD reported that the Navajo Nation, with a population of approximately 175,000 people, had a coronavirus infection rate of 3.4 percent. By comparison rate the infection rate in New York state was 1.9 percent.
“This virus didn’t originate on the Navajo Nation,” stated Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “But we got hit pretty hard.”
This month, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, we were able to ship 128 gallons of hand sanitizer, 3,120 bars of soap, 20,000 pairs of latex gloves, 250 Smile Strong dental kits, and 19,100 diapers for growing families with infants and toddlers to be distributed on the Navajo Nation.
The shipment will be going to our longtime partner on the reservation, Today We Follow, Tomorrow We Lead (TWF-TWL), and the SLC (Salt Lake City) Air Protectors in Provo, Utah, where 2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Jacob Crane (Tsuuti’ina Nation) will be overseeing distribution as the recently appointed SLC Air Protectors’ Executive Director.
In response to an urgent request from TWF-TWL President Anita Begay in May, we shipped a pallet of hygiene items including gallons of potentially life-saving hand sanitizer which is practically impossible to find on the reservation, and expensive when available.
And as the spread of coronavirus on the reservation has shown no signs of slowing, we saw the critical need in sending an additional shipment to TWF-TWL this month.
Jacob explained that SLC Air Protectors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting indigenous people which includes advocacy for tribal governments, addressing environmental issues, supporting Native American stewardship, and most recently, tribal COVID-19 aid.
“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic our team has been working diligently to provide emergency food services to the Navajo Nation,” Jacob told us, noting that as of mid-June they have fed more than 700 families.
“We are in need of support to continue supporting these greatly affected communities on the Navajo Nation,” he added in his request to Running Strong for the hygiene items.
SLC Air Protectors has partnered with the Utah Navajo Health System (UNHS), the official healthcare provider for the Utah Navajo Nation.
“They have created a system that provides services to the most vulnerable communities in the area,” he said. “SLC Air Protectors works hand-in-hand with UNHS delivering to elders’ homes and their non-contact drop off sites.”
Without the supplies provided by Running Strong, Jacob said that SLC Air Protectors would be hard-pressed to figure out a way to continue filling in the gaps that tend to happen every day: “It would fall upon SLC Air Protectors to continue this much-needed work.”
Thankfully, during the months the coronavirus has been ravaging the world, our nation, and especially, Indian Country, thanks to our generous and compassionate supporters, we have been able to meet their requests for hand sanitizer, soap and more and ship dozens of pallets weighing an average of 500 pounds each to many of our Native American partners — we could not do it without them!