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People-centered responsiveness

WKKF grantee GHESKIO, among the first in the world dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS, has since expanded its focus to include TB, cholera and now COVID-19. Last month, GHESKIO’s founder and executive director, Dr. William Pape, was selected to co-chair Haiti’s government-established commission responsible for planning and coordinating resources for its national COVID-19 response. A recent New York Times article describes Dr. Pape’s efforts to develop a national treatment protocol and plan for a dramatic increase in cases in Haiti. The article also mentions WKKF grantee St. Boniface Hospital, whose director, Dr. Inobert Pierre, has been both gearing up to fight the virus in his institution and the stigmatization of those infected in the community.

During a time when the safest place for everyone to be is at home, those who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.  In Southwest Michigan, an otherwise vacant hotel is being used as a quarantine space for individuals who are showing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, and do not have permanent shelter. With funding from the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, 100 hotel rooms were booked to address this community need while also supporting a struggling local industry.

To respond to growing evidence of racial disparities in Michigan’s COVID-19 impact, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has established the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. WKKF’s Program Officer Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols and WKKF’s CLN Class Two Fellow Celeste Sanchez Lloyd were asked to serve alongside other grantees and partners. In Michigan, African Americans make up less than 14% of the overall population but 30% of COVID-19 confirmed cases and 41% of COVID-19 deaths in the state.

As the coronavirus exposes entrenched infrastructure disparities in Indian Country, Native peoples are leading in their responses to address community needs. First Nations announced $635K in emergency funding to Native communities across the country on the frontlines of COVID-19. The National Indian Health Board created a Tribal COVID-19 response resource page delivering timely information for elders and young people – and addressing pressing issues such as food security. The National Congress of American Indians is providing legislative updates and COVID-19 Tribal coordination.

As the latest Paycheck Protection Program funds are distributed, there’s a growing concern that many businesses owned by people of color will be left without the operating support they so critically need. Southern Bancorp, a WKKF investee, is among the front line Community Development Financial Institutions deploying much needed capital to under resourced communities and businesses owned by women and people of color. Another WKKF grantee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, publishes an online guide describing this and other SBA loan options available. 

Even though many immigrants – including some with legal residency – are keeping local economies alive during this economic crisis, they are left out of ongoing state and federal relief efforts and policies. According to a new report released on International Workers’ Day (May 1) by WKKF grantee New Mexico Voices for Children, immigrants contribute significantly to local, state and the national economies – including the $996 million in taxes they pay, the essential jobs they perform and the people they employ.

As some pregnant women seek alternatives to hospital births during the pandemic, WKKF grantee Tewa Women United is emerging as a resource. Its long-standing traditional and cultural approach of working with doulas and midwives to ensure mothers and newborn babies stay safe during birth is being more widely recognized and sought out.

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