Clean Hands Project helps fight the spread of COVID-19 on Navajo Nation | Navajo-Hopi Observer

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is helping to reduce the further spread of COVID-19 by implementing a Clean Hands Project to distribute hand-washing stations to Navajo and Hopi Nations families who do not have access to plumbing or running water indoors.

Relief Fund Interim Executive Director Ethel Branch said 30 percent of homes in the Navajo Nation have no indoor plumbing and this is a contributing factor to the disproportionate number of confirmed cases and deaths related to COVID-19 reported among tribal people. communities in Arizona.

“Although the Center of Disease Control and Prevention advocates measures such as hand washing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, many of our tribesmen cannot just turn on a tap to wash their hands,” said Branch.

According to an article entitled “ Radiation diseases and COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation, ” published Feb. 3 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, residents of the Navajo Nation are 67 times more likely not to have running water or indoor pipes connected on sewer lines than others in the US.

Branch said tribes also face a legacy of legal disputes over water rights with federal and state governments that are further hampering progress in funding and building water projects, including more comprehensive water infrastructure.

This lack of water infrastructure has been disastrous for both tribes as they dealt with the pandemic, Branch said.

Clean Hands Project tackling the lack of water and indoor pipes in tribal communities

The idea to set up the Clean Hands project began in the fall of 2020 when emergency fund board members identified that more than a third of families who applied for kinship packages (including food, water, and PPE) also had no running water.

Shandiin Herrera, executive secretary and chief of distribution team for Monument Valley, Utah, began outreaching through local senior centers and community members in her area to further assess the need for hand-washing stations. Many residents in her area live off the electricity grid, which has made the outreach effort difficult.


“In many cases it is very difficult to contact people in need. Many residents of Douglas Mesa and other communities do not have running water or electricity. Plus, they don’t have internet or phone services to call for our help, ”said Herrera. “I had to be resourceful in communicating through our community members to assess the existing need. Our teams have been very effective in this. ”

Based on her reach, Herrera found that of the 400 homes in her region, 175 households had no running water.

As of December 2020, the Relief Fund has been able to provide 60 hand-washing stations to communities in Monument Valley, Utah. Herrera said she has 300 stations available and ready for distribution, which she leads on a weekly basis.

Since the start of the Clean Hands Project, the Relief Fund found that 3,436 households who applied for their help in both the Navajo and Hopi countries live without running water. These figures are collected in a database that guides the distribution of hand washing stations throughout the project.

Relief Fund Program Manager Mary Francis said her goal with the Clean Hands Project is to distribute stations based on regional needs, prioritizing the elderly, confirmed COVID-19 cases, and individuals with special needs.

“We have a system where I delegate distribution to our regional team leaders and they provide and assemble the hand washing stations,” said Francis. “Our strategy is to move from region to region and make sure that anyone without running water has at least a hand washing station to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

What the hand washing stations look like

The hand washing stations consist of a stand about one meter high with a foot pump for hands-free control of the water delivery, a hand wash basin, a basin with fresh water and a liquid soap dispenser.

The Clean Hands Project has hand-washing stations located in the communities of Jeddito, LeChee, Coppermine, Kaibeto, Kayenta, Black Mesa, Kinlichee, Wide Ruins, Klagetoh and the chapters around Gallup, New Mexico. The project continues to monitor and assess regional distribution needs.

“The elderly we have helped are so grateful for something as simple as a sink to wash their hands in, as opposed to using buckets filled with water. They are often amazed at the innovation of the hand washing stations we provide, ”said Herrera.

Branch members and other relief funds continue to implement projects that will ensure that the Navajo and Hopi nations are pandemic resistant and provide the tools for tribesmen to protect themselves from the spread of COVID.

“It is completely unacceptable that such a large proportion of our tribal communities lack basic services such as indoor plumbing and electricity. The relief fund will continue to undertake critical projects such as this one to combat the inequalities that put our communities at increased risk of spreading COVID-19 and its variants, ”said Branch. “Please consider donating to our GoFundMe campaign to help us advance these projects that protect our Navajo and Hopi families and elders. Our communities appreciate your generosity. ”

More information about the emergency fund and how to donate is available at

Information provided by the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief

Comments are closed.