USNS COMFORT, At Anchor (NNS) -- The Haitian Minister of Health visited the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) March 4 to express his gratitude for the extraordinary efforts of the crew in response to the earthquake that struck Haiti earlier this year.
Four days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake shocked the Caribbean nation, Comfort set sail for Port-au-Prince to provide medical care and lifesaving aid to victims of one of the worst disasters to hit Haiti in 200 years.
"The United States answered the call very early," said Minister of Health Dr. Alex Larsen. "The United States came to help us, and we don't know how to really thank you."
While aboard Comfort, Larsen toured the casualty receiving area where the first Haitian nationals were triaged Jan. 19 before the ship had even arrived off the nation's coast. Larsen also saw Comfort's extensive operating suite and met with the surgery team, who conducted 843 surgeries in a little more than five weeks time.
"The only thing I can do, from the bottom of my heart, is say thank you from the Haitian people," Larsen said.
Following the tour of shipboard spaces, Larsen spoke to crew members and presented the ship's master, Capt. Robert Holley, and Comfort medical treatment facility commanding officer, Capt. James Ware, with small gift symbolizing Haiti's deep gratitude.
"In the name of Republic of Haiti's government, the Haitian public and myself, I would like to present a plaque to thank the entire crew and all of those who have helped Haiti aboard the ship," Larsen said.
Ware and Holley also presented gifts to Larsen signifying the United State's commitment to their friendship with Haiti.
"USNS Comfort was one of many different avenues of medical care that were provided rapidly after the earthquake," Ware said. "I'm very proud to be able to represent our country and the health care providers here on the ship."
Since arriving in Haiti, Comfort's team provided critical care for 871 patients and saved countless lives through timely medical evacuations and treatment that would have been otherwise unavailable.
More than 1,200 Sailors, civilian mariners and nongovernmental volunteers from Comfort have helped provide aid during Operation Unified Response, a USAID-led multinational relief effort in conjunction with the government of Haiti to begin the steps toward recovery from January's catastrophe. To date military forces attached to the Joint Task Force in Haiti have provided just over 2.6 million bottles of water, 2.2 million meals, and 149,000 pounds of medical supplies.
For more news from USNS Comfort, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/tah20/.