COVID-19 relief fund raises $400,000 for Navajo and Hopi families
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. —The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund has raised more than $400,000 in its attempt to help families on the Navajo and Hopi reservations impacted by the global pandemic of COVID-19.
Confirmed cases on the Navajo Nation are doubling nearly every day. They were 698 positive cases on the Nation as of April 11 with 2,760 negative test results and a total of 24 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19.
The help the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is providing is critical for a population with underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
“These tribal communities have high numbers of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic and cancer-afflicted individuals, putting them at a substantially elevated risk of requiring hospitalization for COVID-19,” said Cassandra Begay, communication lead for the group.
She went on to explain in a press release that the Navajo Nation has 12 Indian Health Service facilities with a total of 170 hospital beds, 13 ICU beds, 52 isolation rooms and 28 ventilators.
“Given the circumstances, the few medical facilities and resources on the Nation are likely to be severely overwhelmed in a short amount of time,” Begay said. “It is essential for the on-reservation community to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.”
Getting food and water to people on the reservation is critical, as well. The Navajo Nation and Hopi reservations have only 16 grocery stores and small food markets to serve nearly 200,000 people.
The orders to shelter in place, while necessary to stop the spread of the virus, do not take into account that a third of the Navajo Nation residents do not have electricity in their homes. Another third do not have running water in their homes. Three of the 12 Hopi villages do not have running water or electricity.
“Economic opportunities on these reservations are scarce,” Begay said in a press release. “Thirty-eight percent of the Navajo community members live in poverty and the Navajo Nation has approximately 50 percent unemployment. Hopi has about 60 percent unemployment.”
Begay said $397,639.91 was released to the fund’s fiscal sponsor April 7.
“We are now able to expend those funds by making direct purchases of food and supplies,” she said.
The relief fund has received 4,500 requests for support and mobilized numerous volunteers to provide direct relief to over 850 families in over 25 communities, including Chilchinbeto, Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Kayenta, the Village of Bacavi, the Village of Oraibi, Oljato, Monument Valley, Tuba City, the Village of Upper Moencopi, the Village of Lower Moencopi, Dilcon and Fort Defiance.
Reports of communities needing water have been heard by the relief fund, too. On April 8, the Taala Hooghan Infoshop in Flagstaff headed by Klee Benally, and helped with volunteers, received 43,000 pounds of canned water. The volunteers unloaded by hand about eight tons of water to help with the relief effort.
Begay said now that the group has access to the GoFundMe dollars, the group can expand its efforts even further, including a distribution center in Pinon and distribution networks in New Mexico. She said that serving remote elders in Pinon, Black Mesa who are immunocompromised is an extremely high priority.
“We have been serving the moresremote areas as is through a collaboration with Community Health Representatives (CHR), who are assigned by the Navajo Nation government, in places like Black Mesa and with the Infinity homecare provider company in Kaibeto and Navajo Mountain areas,” Begay said.
The collaboration with CHRs and chapter staff has helped the relief fund identify people who might fall through the cracks because of their lack of access to the internet. Concerned family members, some who live off the reservation, have also alerted the group to elder relatives’ needs by filling out the help request forms on behalf of their family members.
“[This] week we will also launch a radio campaign to raise awareness of our availability as a resource,” Begay said. “Hopefully that will help us reach our relatives even in the most remote areas.
More information about donating to or for additional resources including volunteer and support request forms is available at www.navajohopisolidarity.org. Diné and Hopi residents can also call toll-free to request support: 1-833-956-1554.