COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation

Rachel Chimits

World Challenge partners are working in the Navajo Nation to see relief from the coronavirus outbreak there, so what is in the future for them?

The Navajo Nation is home of the largest Native American tribe, covering 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah with over 250,000 Navajos living both inside and outside this territory.

On May 18, Navajo Nation had the highest COVID-19 infection rate per capita in the U.S., surpassing New York state. The nation banded together to flatten the curve and save as many people as possible with the support of several nonprofits and outside teams like World Challenge’s partners.

Although much of the Navajo nation is very rural, locals are not used to isolation. Small homesteads often don’t have power lines running to them or water piped inside their house; they meet at common spots to get water or depend on family members. This communal way of living becomes much harder while social distancing.

One of World Challenge’s partners in the area began reaching out to help individuals get access to food and water while still keeping themselves and their loved ones safe during the pandemic.

Working Together on the Reservation

The organization Someone Cares worked together with the Navajo Nation Christian Response Team to make sure that food, hygiene supplies and other essentials were distributed through Navajo pastors and churches to meet the needs in their congregations and communities. NNCRT operates distribution centers where care packages with food and other supplies are assembled and from which they are delivered, both by air and over land.

“NNCRT exists to come alongside people who are feeling hopeless, feeling abandoned, feeling like they have no peace and no hope for the future,” Ty Platero, Incident Commander with NNCRT, reported at the height of lockdown. “We hear stories about families who haven’t eaten in days because of the pandemic.”

World Challenge’s partners donated 1,680 N95 masks through NNCRT to help healthcare professionals who were treating COVID-19 at local hospitals. They also delivered six pallets of fortified rice casseroles and $2,000 worth of paper products. In addition, the team also gave funding for hard-to-obtain items like canned meats, fruits and vegetables for more remote communities.

Teams have been working directly with the Office of the President of the Navajo Nation to identify additional needs and provide over $4,000 worth of gift cards to families hit hard by this crisis for food and cleaning supplies.

On the Other Side of the Curve

Each care package delivered by NNCRT includes printed spiritual resources to remind people of hope in Christ. “We're not just a relief organization,” Ty explains. “We’re a Christian relief organization. Our hope is to share and send the love of Christ in each one of these care packages.”

Recent reports are showing that cases are beginning to decline, and relief finally seems like it’s in sight for locals who have faithfully sheltered in place and worn masks whenever they go out.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez stated, “Now it’s our turn. Our offer is there to the people who donated items to the Navajo Nation, please let us know what you need. It is our turn to pay back that love, and that giving that you've done when we hit a high point. We do have churches ready to mobilize down to the Valley to help out with food and supply distributions."

As we look to the future, we want to thank you for supporting us and our partners. Your faithful generosity enables us to help individuals find their feet again, in the Navajo Nation and beyond.