SAN ILDEFONSO PUEBLO, NM — At least two teams from Doctors Without Borders are working with Native American communities in New Mexico to help curb the spread of coronavirus, the organization told CNN.
A nine-person team arrived in Gallup late April and has been working with the Navajo Nation since, said aid worker Jean Stowell, who heads the organization’s US Covid-19 response team. The team expects to remain there until June.
The Navajo Nation is the largest US Indian tribe and its capital lies about 25 miles northwest of Gallup, according to the New Mexico Tourism Department.
“At the moment, MSF is focusing on providing technical guidance to health care facilities and communities with infection prevention and control. We are also actively engaged with community leaders and other actors to increase access for communities to health promotion and practical education,” Stowell said.
In the neighboring city of Gallup, the state’s governor declared a state or emergency to help control an outbreak and “mitigate the uninhibited spread” of the virus. All roads into the city were closed.
When asked why their teams were sent to the area to assist, Stowell said the organization has helped in epidemics around the globe and has been “providing support to people who have been excluded from health care and emergency response.”
“Historically, the Navajo Nation has not received the same attention and resources as other communities in the US, and that has made it particularly difficult for them to respond to this unprecedented epidemic,” Stowell said.
“The leadership of the Navajo Nation as well as the Indian Health Service welcomed our support, and we are happy to join them and other non-governmental organizations working to control the outbreak in this community,” she said.
A second smaller team from the organization arrived mid-April north of Albuquerque, where they have been assisting the Pueblos.