USNS Comfort Captain Says Mission to “Assist People” Continues
By Voice of America August 26, 2019
The ship can treat 500 patients a day, said U.S. Navy Captain Brian J. Debold, mission commander, during a press videoconference.
The goal of the mission, known as “Enduring Promise,” is to relieve the pressure on public health systems of countries that have welcomed the 4 million Venezuelans who have left their country due to the political and economic crisis.
Colombia has received almost 1 million Venezuelan migrants, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Capt. Debold said that the ship’s arrival is a symbol of the United States’ “good faith” in helping the nations of the hemisphere.
Doctors from different countries (Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States, among others) work on board the ship, Capt. Debold said.
The hospital ship arrived in Colombia after visiting Panama. The five-month mission that started in mid-June also involves medical personnel from the countries the ship visits.
“Our mission is to assist people,” Capt. Debold said. After two months on the mission, the USNS Comfort has provided health care to more than 50,000 patients, Capt. Debold said, although he didn’t specify how many of those patients were Venezuelans.
Exiled Venezuelan opposition lawmakers José Manuel Olivares and Gaby Arellano visited the ship in Colombia. Humberto Calderón Berti, the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia named by Interim President Juan Guaidó, also visited the ship, as well as James Story, who was the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Venezuela.
“Hunger, poverty, and illness have no borders. We are deeply grateful to the U.S. government for all that they do for us,” said Calderón Berti.
The humanitarian trip will also include other nations in the hemisphere, such as Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Saint Lucia.
“The Hospital Ship USNS Comfort represents our enduring promise to our partners in the Western Hemisphere, our shared neighborhood,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
This marks the seventh deployment of the hospital ship to the region since 2007. The USNS Comfort made its last humanitarian mission in the region between October and December 2018, also visiting Colombia.