NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The USNS Comfort is scheduled to leave Naval Station Norfolk for a five-month humanitarian mission to help Venezuelan refugees.
Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. Navy hospital ship will depart for South America, Central America and the Caribbean in June to help countries “overwhelmed” by the more than 3 million refugees who have fled in recent years.
The Comfort’s mission is part of the U.S.-Caribbean 2020 Strategy which seeks to further establish the friendship and partnership between the United States and the Caribbean.
Navy Admin. Craig Fuller, who will oversee the Comfort’s deployment, promises full support to the displaced Venezuelans affected by the disputed president Maduro’s regime.
“The USNS Comfort represents our enduring promise to our partners in the Western Hemisphere – our shared neighborhood,” Fuller said.
This is the Comfort’s seventh mission to the region since 2007, as well it’s second deployment to the Western Hemisphere in the last six months. In the fall, the Comfort provided medical assistance in Colombia and several other countries where most the refugees have settled.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that before the USNS Comfort can be deployed from its homeport in Norfolk, a staff of doctors, nurses and other medical staff have to be assembled.
Pence and other Trump administration officials have warned that another 2 million people are expected to flee by the end of the year if the crisis continues in the once-prosperous nation.