Marshallese community

J. Froelich / KUAF

A new food pantry specifically for Marshallese families in Northwest Arkansas has opened. The pantry, which stocks foods that Pacific Islanders prefer and need, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was established a few weeks ago by Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, headquartered in Springdale, and is coordinated by Faith Laukon.

The governor, lawmakers and community leaders are urging the Arkansas Legislative Council to meet and approve nearly $7 million in funding for a COVID-19 response plan specifically targeting the state's Latinx and Marshallese communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak. The plan includes testing, contact tracing and enhanced case management.

J. Froelich / KUAF


In part two of our report, we learn more about the CDC team's investigation into why a disproportionate number of Marshallese migrants in Arkansas have been sickened or died from COVID-19. Marshallese physician, Dr. Sheldon Riklon, who helped guide the study, and Republic of the Marshall Islands Secretary of Health and Human Services Jack Neidenthal provide cultural context and reaction to the findings. For the full report from the CDC, click here.


Venceremos, a local social justice organization focused on the rights of poultry workers, will be delivering a letter to Governor Asa Hutchinson Wednesday in Little Rock.

J. Froelich / KUAF

The Marshallese Educational Initiative, in cooperation with the Republic of the Marshall Islands Consulate in Springdale, are joining forces today to deliver critically needed food and supplies to Marshallese families under quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new report issued by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, which recently deployed an investigation in Northwest Arkansas, Pacific Islanders are disproportionately affected by the virus. 


About two weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Health requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as COVID-19 cases surged in both the Latino and Marshallese communities that reside in Northwest Arkansas. The CDC team has been tasked with analyzing the chains of transmission within those groups and providing mitigation recommendations for the state. We speak with Arkansas CDC Team Leader Angela Hernandez about how they've been gathering information and data.

Courtesy / UAMS


Although they only make up about two percent of Northwest Arkansas's population of half a million people, Marshall Islanders make up about half of the deaths from COVID-19 in Benton and Washington Counties. Community leaders and advocates say they're alarmed at the health and socioeconomic disparities that have led to the disproportionate hospitalizations and deaths in the Marshallese community. They also say the state needs a dedicated approach to curb the spread of the virus.

Z. Sitek / KUAF

The day after Tyson Foods released the results of its facility-wide COVID-19 testing initiative, protesters with Venceremos marched through downtown Springdale to demand that Governor Asa Hutchinson briefly shutdown Northwest Arkansas's poultry plants to allow workers to quarantine.

Z. Sitek / KUAF

Magaly Licolli, the cofounder of Venceremos, and Mireya Reith, the founding executive director of Arkansas United, are calling on state leaders to act as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in the Latinx community, which makes up a large portion of the workforce at Northwest Arkansas's poultry plants.

Courtesy / Richeal Koloje

Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., including more than 10,000 Marshallese in Arkansas, are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, experts say. Many working poor adult migrants have no access to federal entitlements to pay for treatment. One affected Marshallese family shares their traumatic story. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the U.S. Marshallese Consul General, a Pacific Islander physician and an Arkansas legislator weigh in.