Closing Ceremony of USNS Comfort 2019 Visit

Ambassador Sison’s Remarks

November 11, 2019, 11:00am

Killick Coast Guard Station

Commodore Diebold, Commander of Task Force 49 and the Commander of the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort,

Captain Amersbach, Medical Treatment Facility Commanding Officer,

Lt Commander Chris O’Meara of the Coast Guard Cutter Margaret Norvell,

Mr. Pedro Mars, the Commandant of the Haitian Coast Guard

Commandant of the Haitian Coast Guard

Mr. Rameau Normil, the Director General of the Haitian National Police,

Ms. Great Roy Clement, Minister of Public Health and Population,

Mr. Lauré Adrien, Director General of the Minister of Public Health,

Lt. Pierrot Raphael and Lt. Dannemarc Atis, both U.S. Navy officers who are also part of the Haitian diaspora.  Lt. Raphael has served with the U.S. Navy for 20 years, and Lt. Atis for eight years.

Dr. Jerry Chandler, Director of Civil Protection,

Dear colleagues,

Dear guests,

Good Morning!

It has been an honor for all of us at the U.S. Embassy to support the USNS Comfort in Port au Prince.  This medical mission has offered life-saving medical treatment and supplies to Haitian men, women, and children over the past week. The USNS Comfort’s personnel helped treat over 3,500 patients.

We can’t talk about every patient, but I’d like to give you just one example.  One mother brought her nine month old child ,N’guercie Bazelais,  who suffered from a cleft palate.   After the Comfort surgical team repaired the cleft palate, baby N’guercie can now smile and eat , and will grow up healthy!

I’d like to begin by thanking the Captain and crew of the USNS Comfort, and the two Coast Guard Cutters accompanying it, the Margaret Norvell and the Kathleen Moore. There are U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard personnel aboard, as well as medical professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service, and many, many volunteers.

And thank you to the Haitian volunteers and to all of our Haitian friends.  Bravo to the interpreters and to the translators!  Bravo to the scouts! We couldn’t have done this without you!

Haiti is the last stop of the U.S. Navy’s “Enduring Promise” five-month mission in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean.  This mission comes under the operation “Enduring Promise.” This visit, once again, attests to the close ties that unite our two countries – Haiti and the United States. As friends, as neighbors, our two countries work together to bring better living conditions to all.

When we speak about Comfort here in Haiti, we know it evokes many memories and good will that has been evident during all the previous visits, and including this one, the sixth visit to Haiti of the Comfort.

One thing that has not changed from the first visit in 2007 to today: it is about the partnership between the United States and Haiti, and it’s about the friendship between American people and the Haitian people.  Many think of the Comfort coming into Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and the support and medical care it offered. We are proud of the bonds the Comfort has with the people of Haiti. During the six Comfort missions, they have treated 43,500 patients, have performed more than 1,000 surgeries.  It’s a wonderful partnership, isn’t it?

Dear friends, resilience helps us overcome challenges.  Resilience also helps us prepare for the next challenges.  Disaster preparedness is vital.

The USNS Comfort has a long history of visiting Haiti – starting in 2007, then 2009, 2010 after the earthquake, 2011, 2015, and now 2019.  In 2010, only nine days after the earthquake, the Comfort arrived in Haiti and stayed for forty days.

I’d like to emphasize that the United States continues to support the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Haitian National Police and the Office of Civil Protection, who help Haiti deal with disasters and help foster resilience.  They’ve been doing a great job ensuring public safety and security under sometimes very difficult circumstances.  The Haitian Coast Guard, which as you know is part of the Haitian National Police, has played an important role in the visit.  The Ministry of Public Health and Population has also played an important role in the Comfort visit.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population also played a very important role during the visit of the Comfort, advancing their goal of helping Haitians be healthy.

We are proud that the Comfort visit not only treated thousands of Haitians this week as Commodore Diebold mentioned. This visit brought long-term benefits to our valued health partners.  This 2019 Comfort visit resulted in total US contributions to our partners valued at over $300,000. These include 12 generators, several examining, operating, and treatment tables, blood donation chairs and recliners, hospital beds and incubators.

These past weeks have been difficult for the Haitian people.  The U.S. deplores the current gridlock here, which directly contributes a spike in humanitarian needs, and an interruption of daily life for the people of Haiti.  We urge ALL stakeholders  – political, economic and civil society leaders – to find a democratic solution together, to join in an inclusive dialogue without preconditions, without violence, in the coming days.

Again, thank you all for taking part in this important Mission, and I’m so proud that the U.S. has been able to assist about 3,500 men, women, and children during the visit of the Comfort.  We stand ready to continue to pursue a future of democracy, prosperity, and security in Haiti and throughout the hemisphere.

Commodore Diebold – we wish you and your crew of the 49th godspeed back to Norfolk.  Crew of the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter crews – last but not least, Happy Veterans Day!

As President Trump declared in his White House proclamation  today, November 11th ,  is our Veterans Day and we Americans commemorate the service, sacrifice, and immeasurable contributions of our Nation’s veterans who have proudly worn our country’s uniform… As we [Americans] celebrate Veterans Day today, we pause to recognize the brave men and women who have fearlessly and faithfully worked to defend the United States and our freedom.  [Our military men and women’s] devotion to duty and patriotism deserves the respect and admiration of our grateful nation…”

Commodore Diebold and crew of the Comfort, I humbly thank you and your families for your sacrifices in being away from home for the past five months and for your continuing willingness to answer the call of duty. You have our deepest gratitude.  And, the U.S. Marine Corps birthday was yesterday – November 10.  Happy Birthday Marines!

God bless all of you.

God bless Haiti; God bless the United States of America.

Thank you.