Water Health Educator
Disease Implications: COVID-19
COVID-19 and Lack of Water:
Spotlight on Native American Impact
by Ashley Dawson
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the United States emotionally, economically, and physically. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention informs the public of preventive measures to avoid this disease. For example, face mask and washing hands. These mandates are particularly hard for many Native Americans. Water for flushing toilets is seen as a luxury to many Native Americans living in the Navajo Nation. Many households lack plumbing and have to travel far distances to obtain water. About nine miles have to be traveled in order to reach water (Morales, 2019). There, each person is allowed to “fill two fifty-gallon barrels” (Morales, 2019). The reason for lack of clean, easy to reach water stems back to the 1940s - 1980s.
At this time, about 30 million tons of uranium was dug out of uranium mines in the Navajo Nation (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2021). The mines were later abandoned leaving only destruction in its path. High rates of gastric cancer and contaminated water continue to affect the people of this land. Now, with coronavirus, the Navajo Nation has the highest incidence rate.
Furthermore, the people of this land can not take precautions such as social distancing and hand washing when they must go out to obtain clean water. As of March 14, 2021, there are 29,948 cases with 1,218 deaths (Navajo Nation Department of Health, 2021). There is an urgent need for water equality for the Native Americans. A pandemic and no water is a mess indeed.
Morales, L. (2019, November 18). Many Native Americans Can't Get Clean Water, Report Finds. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/18/779821510/many-native-americans-cant-get-clean-water-report-finds.
Navajo Nation Department of Health. (2021). Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19 (COVID-19) . COVID-19. https://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/covid-19.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/navajo-nation-uranium-cleanup.