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News | Aug. 28, 2019

HHS Attends Comfort Closing Ceremony in Colombia

By Seaman Brendan Fitzgerald

The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attended a closing ceremony at the International Marina, which marked the conclusion of the hospital ship USNS Comfort’s (T-AH 20) fifth medical mission in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, Aug. 25.

During the ceremony, HHS along with U.S. and Colombian officials spoke of the commitment between the partnering nations and the symbol of goodwill that Comfort brought to the citizens of Santa Marta.

“Each mission of the Comfort is not just a significant undertaking by the U.S. government, it is also a triumph of international humanitarian cooperation,” said Azar. “Hundreds of medical professionals have been staffing the ship here on land and on the sea.”

During the Comfort’s six-day mission in Santa Marta, medical professionals from the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy, alongside seven partner nations and non-governmental organizations provided care for more than 7,300 patients at two separate shore-based medical sites and performed more than 135 surgeries aboard the ship.

“To everyone one who put in the effort, to each and every one of you, I give you a message of admiration and congratulations,” said Dr. Juan Pablo Uribe, Colombian minister of health and social protection. “We are left with brotherhood; we are left with lessons learned all around, and the desire to continue working together.”

The Comfort’s mission is accomplished through the efforts of medical and non-medical personnel. The entire Comfort team is comprised of military and civilian from the United States and partner nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as several U.S. and international non-governmental organizations, creating a dynamic team capable of delivering a variety of services.

This marks the sixth Comfort visit to Colombia since 2007. At each of the upcoming missions, the embarked medical teams will provide care aboard the Comfort and at two land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained partly by an increase in Venezuelan migrants.

This deployment is a part of the U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative and reflects the United States’ ongoing commitment to friendship, partnership, and solidarity with partner nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

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