US Navy sending hospital ship to Colombia in response to refugee crisis

US Navy photo of USNS Comfort

The US Navy is expected to dispatch a hospital ship to Colombia with the aim of helping local health workers respond to an ever increasing number of Venezuelan refugees arriving in Colombia and other South American countries.

The deployment of USNS Comfort was confirmed by US defense secretary Jim Mattis who said the ship would be deployed on a humanitarian mission without specifying when exactly the ship was slated to sail to South America.

Mattis said the deployment had been agreed upon by Colombian president Ivan Duque, adding that the Colombian administration provided details on how the ship’s cruise through the region should be organized.

“It is absolutely a humanitarian mission. We’re not sending soldiers; we’re sending doctors,” Mattis said. “And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of Maduro, and his increasingly isolated regime.”

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country as of June, according to the UN. Venezuelans flee from the socioeconomic and political crisis mainly to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.

USNS Comfort – the ship that is likely to be deployed to South America – has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000 bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen producing plants. Each ship is equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters. The ships also have side ports to take on patients at sea.

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