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Nonprofit Group Brings Handwashing Stations To Hopi, Navajo

Red Feather Development Group

Frequent handwashing is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus disease, but many homes on the Hopi and Navajo Nations don’t have access to clean, running water. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, a nonprofit group is working on that problem with do-it-yourself handwashing stations.

The Red Feather Development Group has built more than 100 handwashing stations so far for Hopi and Navajo families. They’re constructed from two large trash bins and operated with a foot pump. Joe Seidenberg of Red Feather says they make it easier for people to wash their hands frequently, "and that’s what we need to do during the time of COVID, is give people 20 seconds of handwashing multiple times a day. It’s going to encourage better hygiene and hopefully keep people healthier."

Seidenberg says Red Feather has several hundred families on the waiting list, and plans to train Hopi and Navajo crews to build the stations.

Monica Nuvasma of the Hopi Foundation explains that prior to the pandemic many families would share and reuse the same small basin of water for handwashing so as not to be wasteful.  "We have a very strong value of conservation," she says. "You overlay that over a pandemic like this, and the need to create access to clean water for handwashing—that saves lives. That’s what important."

A separate group, Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief, is also working to improve clean water access on the reservations.

More than eight thousand people on the Navajo Nation have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 280 Hopi tribal members.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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