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US Aid Ship to Visit Latin America, Caribbean

The US Navy's hospital ship "Comfort" will visit 12 ports in Latin America and the Caribbean soon to provide health care to needy communities, the White House said Friday .

The ship will undertake a four-month deployment that US President George W. Bush announced in a March 5 speech on US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, spokesman Scott Stanzel said in a statement.

Volunteers from non-governmental aid groups will join the Comfort's medical crew and "will provide free health care services to communities in need," Stanzel said as Bush traveled here.

The crew will provide medical care to about 85,000 patients, the military Southern Command (Southcom) said in a separate statement. It said the vessel would travel to Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago during the voyage that should conclude in September.

The crew includes about 500 medical personnel whose specialties range from general surgery to dentistry and gynecology. "This deployment provides an opportunity for us to work together with countries in the region to make a lasting contribution across our hemisphere," said SouthCom Commander Admiral Jim Stavridis.

"We will undoubtedly touch the lives of many families whose hardships will be lessened while strengthening our partnerships with the countries we visit," he said.


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