The massive influx of Venezuelan refugees has put quite the strain on Colombian resources as the government attempts to provide some aid for those fleeing the dramatic economic crisis that continues to worsen in the neighboring country.
The U.S. Department of Defense is lending a helping hand with the ongoing crisis by sending a hospital ship to help give support to the Colombian health care system that now has to account for an estimated 800,000 Venezuelan migrants in the country.
“It is absolutely a humanitarian mission,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, according to an Associated Press report. Mattis had recently been on tour in South America to get a firsthand view of the migrant crisis and talking directly with officials like new Colombian President Ivan Duque.
“They not only agreed in principle, they gave details on how we might best craft the cruise through the region,” Mattis said of his talks with Duque and Colombian authorities.
The ship with a hospital and medical supplies on board is expected to arrive on Colombian shores in the fall, per the AP news report. The hospital ship called the Comfort will leave from Norfolk, Virginia in the U.S. It may travel to other Latin American countries affected by the Venezuelan migrant crisis like Brazil, Peru and Chile, though details from Washington were sparse.
“We are going to go where the need is greatest,” Mattis added.
The Comfort has 12 rooms a 1,000-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT scan and two oxygen-producing plants. The ship also boasts a deck that can receive helicopter landings.
The Comfort had previously been on a relief mission in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María that devastated the island under U.S. control.