MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort left PortMiami early Wednesday morning on a five-month mission to provide medical assistance in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.
Scheduled stops include Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
The ship’s medical teams will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained partly by an increase in displaced Venezuelans.
Earlier this month, the United Nations announced that the number of Venezuelan refugees had grown to four million, making Venezuelans “one of the single largest population groups displaced from their country,” the U.N. said. Colombia had the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants with about 1.3 million, followed by over 750,000 in Peru.
In a bitter feud with the U.S., Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has long-refused all American aid.
Much of the international community, including the U.S., now recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president and has called for Maduro to step down in order for democratic elections to take place.
This new mission will be the hospital ship’s seventh deployment to the region since 2007.