Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Doctors Without Borders sends team to help Navajo Nation battle the coronavirus

Doctors Without Borders has sent nine medical professionals to the Navajo Nation to help communities that have been ravaged by the coronavirus.

Doctors Without Borders is an international humanitarian organization that works in conflict zones. "There are many situations in which we do not intervene in the United States, but this has a particular risk profile," Jean Stowell, head of the group's U.S. COVID-19 Response Team, told CBS News on Monday. "Situationally, the Native American communities are at a much higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and also from community spread because they don't have access to the variety of things that make it possible to self-isolate."

About 170,000 people live in the Navajo Nation, where there are more coronavirus cases per capita than in any state. In addition to dealing with a lack of specialized medical staff, the Navajo Nation is also a food desert and an estimated one in three residents do not have access to running water. "I think it's difficult for Americans to realize how big this country is and how the needs are so different in each place," Stowell said. "You know, urban needs are very different than rural needs. And the needs of the Native American community are challenging because they look so different than the needs elsewhere, so they require a pretty significant coordinated effort."

The team sent to the Navajo Nation includes two physicians, three nurses/midwives, a water sanitation specialist, two logisticians, and a health educator. The plan is for them to stay until the end of June, but they will remain longer if needed. "There is quite a lot of interest in responding to the needs of Native communities, but there are also enormous needs," Stowell said. "And it's not so quick to mobilize things that you really have to start from the ground up. These were bigger problems long before COVID-19."