Going above and beyond to help the Navajo Nation slow the spread of the pandemic

Merck teams work together to donate more than $460,000 worth of supplies to the Indian Health Service National Supply Service Center

May 12, 2020

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes Native Americans are some of the most vulnerable to this pandemic because of economic, geographic, and health conditions. The Navajo Nation is expected to become one of the top three hot spots in the country for COVID-19, per capita, due to these conditions. They need help, fast.

Recognizing this need, Elyse Bealer, executive director, chief of staff for Merck Manufacturing Division (MMD) and a member of the Oklahoma Cherokee tribe, reached out to the Indian Health Service (IHS) to see what was needed and how our company could help. In addition to personal protective equipment, one of the greatest needs was for hand sanitizer.

Covid-19 Infographic

The Navajo Nation has seen a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases. It’s also experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment and a lack of running water in some communities.

“A seemingly simple donation of hand sanitizer takes on an entirely different meaning during this pandemic when you consider that 30 percent of homes on the Navajo Nation don’t have running water,” says Elyse.

Once the MMD team knew what they were able to donate, Elyse reached out to Pam Abaza, the global lead for our Native American & Global Indigenous Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG), to work as a united front.

“One of our core tenets is to be a trusted partner in making enduring improvements to the health care disparities in Native Indigenous communities,” says Pam.


Within 10 days, the MMD and EBRG teams were able to confirm a donation of personal protective equipment and 295 gallons of hand sanitizer. “This donation will be used to help tribal regions across the whole U.S. nation,” says Elyse. The IHS will identify locations with the greatest needs across Indian Country and provide the donations accordingly.

“We are so proud that Merck is able to help provide critical relief during these unprecedented times,” says Pam.