Bush Dispatches USNS Comfort on Goodwill Mission
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2007 The hospital ship USNS Comfort will provide health care to disadvantaged citizens at several Latin American and Caribbean ports of call this summer, President Bush announced here yesterday.
President Bush is dispatching the hospital ship USNS Comfort on a mission of goodwill to Caribbean and Latin American countries. In this file photo, the Comfort pulls into Naval Station Mayport, Fla., on Sept. 5, 2005, to take on supplies in support of Hurricane Katrina relief operations. U.S. Navy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“The United States military is a symbol of strength for this nation, but it’s also a symbol of the great compassion of the American people and our desire to help those in our neighborhood who need help,” Bush told members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The Baltimore-based hospital ship’s doctors, nurses and support personnel expect to treat 85,000 patients and conduct up to 1,500 surgeries during its voyage, Bush said.
The USNS Comfort will depart in June and make port calls in Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Haiti, Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, Bush said.
Bush said the United States has nearly doubled the amount of foreign aid to Latin America and the Caribbean region since he took office, noting that $1.6 billion was spent last year. The United States also is launching several new medical, economic and educational initiatives to assist poverty-stricken Latin Americans and Caribbean citizens, the president said.
“These are people who need help. These are people who might not otherwise get the basic health care they need to realize a better tomorrow,” Bush said. “The Comfort is also going to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services on a new initiative to provide all care to the region’s poor. Dentists and hygienists will fill cavities and treat infections and provide treatment for the young children.”
He added that military medical teams will be operating inland to help bring care to other communities. “These teams do everything from vaccinating people against disease to building new medical clinics,” Bush said.
He highlighted a current humanitarian mission in Nicaragua, where 250 U.S. airmen, soldiers and Marines are partnering with 30 Nicaraguan army soldiers to build a new medical clinic.
Through the deployment of the Comfort and the work of military medical teams throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, “we’re making it absolutely clear to people that we care,” Bush said.