U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Calls Manta to Assist Venezuelan Refugees

Ecuadorian Navy Rear Adm. Amilcar Villavicencio, commander of naval operations (left) is greeted by Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer of USNS Comfort's medical team (USN)

Published Jun 27, 2019 8:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, the hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in the port of Manta, Ecuador for the first mission stop of her 2019 deployment.

While in Manta, American servicemembers and medical professionals will work alongside local partners to provide assistance in communities with urgent health care needs, including vulnerable Venezuelan refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.

“We are absolutely thrilled and eager to begin our work here in the beautiful port of Manta,” said Capt. Brian J. Diebold, Comfort's task force commander. “Comfort’s team is ready to work side-by-side with doctors, nurses, and surgeons from throughout the region, exchanging expertise and providing assistance where we can."

Comfort’s team is made up of military and civilian personnel from the United States and partner nations including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru. Her arrival marks the seventh U.S. Navy hospital ship deployment to the region since 2007. The embarked medical teams will provide care on board Comfort and at two land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained by an increase in Venezuelan migrants. Given the state of relations between the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the United States, Comfort is not scheduled to call in Venezuela itself.

"U.S. Southern Command is committed to the region in support of our Caribbean and Latin American partners, as well as displaced Venezuelans who continue to flee the brutal oppression of the former Maduro regime and its interlocking, man-made political, economic and humanitarian crises," said Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, which will oversee the deployment.

According to the latest United Nations assessment, an estimated four million people have fled Venezuela due to the economic and political crisis to date. This includes an estimated 1.1 million people who fled to Colombia, along with 500,000 in Peru, 290,000 in Chile, 220,000 in Ecuador and another 130,000 in Argentina. The UN estimates that an additional 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day, including an increasing number who attempt to seek asylum in the United States.