Send in the ships

The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are 1,000-bed hospitals designed to support disaster relief. President Biden should direct them to Gaza, where too many children have already perished.



November 14, 2023 - 4:09 PM

The USNS Comfort is a hospital ship equipped with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms. The ship, along with the USNS Mercy, is designed to aid in emergency situations. None is more dire than Gaza. (Justin Heiman/Getty Images/TNS)

On Oct. 8, President Biden ordered a fleet of military ships and an aircraft carrier closer to the war between Israel and Hamas. Days later, he ordered a second carrier group to steam into the eastern Mediterranean. As a doctor, I don’t pretend to know the geopolitical calculus governing these decisions. But I do know what it feels like to witness the death of a child — and to be haunted by the possibility that it was preventable. I know that, with thousands of children dying in the current Middle East conflict, there are two other ships we ought to send to the region.

The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are floating 1,000-bed hospitals equipped with well-trained staff, operating rooms and even intensive care units. They provide mobile medical and surgical services to support disaster relief and humanitarian operations and have been deployed numerous times across the globe. Yet, as one of the worst humanitarian crises of our lifetime unfolds, the Mercy is en route to a planned mission in the Pacific, and the Comfort is moored in Mobile, Ala., undergoing upgrades. Planned partnerships and maintenance are important, but in times of crisis, triage is required. We should send the ships instead to Gaza, where too many children have already perished.

Deploying the ships to care for injured children in Gaza offers a rare opportunity for an unambiguous good in a war that currently feels hopeless.  

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