Hundreds of Haitians with health problems ranging from poor eyesight to diabetes to bullet injuries lined up in November. They were hoping to be seen by a staff member aboard the U.S. Naval ship Comfort that docked in Port-au-Prince for its last stop of a five-month medical mission.
For months, Port-au-Prince has been in turmoil. Government corruption brought on protests from the people. Inflation has soared to 20%. Basic commodities like food, fuel, and medical supplies have dwindled. Public schools are shuttered. Riots and retaliations have resulted in 40 or more deaths. People are tired, sick, and seeking help. They’re hoping for mercy from the USNS Comfort.
The U.S. Navy’s floating hospital has visited Haiti six times in the past decade. The latest mission came as ongoing violent demonstrations and street barricades caused several hospitals across the country to run out of medical supplies. Some even had to close temporarily as protesters demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.
Miga Alfred was among those awaiting free medical care. Her three-month-old daughter has hydrocephaly (spinal fluid collected around the brain). The two live in the southern coastal town of Jacmel. They set out at four o’clock a.m. to come to the ship for care.
“Hopefully, my baby will be treated,” Alfred said as she nursed her only child.
Hilairesie Mondesir, age 68, also hoped to be seen. She said, “Everything is hurting me.” Mondesir says she hasn’t been able to afford a doctor in more than a decade.
The ship’s 900 personnel include specialists from the U.S. military and non-government volunteers, according to the U.S. Navy. Working with professionals in Haiti, the team provided care aboard the ship and at the Haitian Coast Guard base in the capital city.
Lieutenant Commander Gustavo Lores said the team treated all sorts of medical problems including chronic illnesses and diabetic lesions. More than half of Haiti’s 11 million people also face “hunger insecurity.” This means they regularly do not get enough to eat and often have no source of food for the next day.
“We see the need of the country,” Lores said. Not only does the team see the need. It’s addressing the needs as well, in much the way James intended when he wrote, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16)
Comfort also conducted mission stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.