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U.S. Air Force to airlift Guatemalan children injured by volcanic eruption

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA -- A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft will transport six Guatemalan children injured by the recent eruption of the Fuego Volcano to the United States June 6 to receive medical treatment.

At the direction of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the aircraft from the 172 Airlift Wing in Jackson, Miss., as well as a team of aeromedical evacuation, pediatric intensive care, and burn victim treatment specialists, will fly the children and their guardians to Galveston, Texas, to receive treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children for burns and other injuries sustained during the eruption.

The command has also donated equipment to assist Guatemalan emergency personnel working at the disaster site, consisting of hazardous gas detectors, tools, and personal protective equipment.

The government of Guatemala requested the assistance through the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City and granted approval for the humanitarian-airlift mission.

In foreign disasters like this one, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. government agency and SOUTHCOM has been in close contact with both USAID and the U.S. State Department while monitoring updates about the eruption.

The U.S. military has a history of supporting USAID-led relief missions and working with international relief organizations and host countries to aid people impacted by disasters, most recently in the Caribbean, where hurricanes Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), and Maria (2017) caused widespread devastation in Haiti, St. Martin, and Guadalupe.

Prior to the volcano’s eruption, SOUTHCOM provided assistance to Guatemala to help it prepare for natural disasters, including the construction and donation of an emergency operations center and a disaster relief warehouse in Guatemala’s Escuintla department, activated and utilized by the country’s National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) following the eruption.

Earlier this year, the command also sponsored a multinational disaster-relief exercise, hosted by Guatemala, with a simulated response to an eruption of the Fuego Volcano. More than a dozen nations participated in the annual exercise, called Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias (Humanitarian Allied Forces), including residents of the communities of La Trinidad and La Reina, which are adjacent to the volcano.

SOUTHCOM is one of the nation’s six geographically-focused unified commands with responsibility for security cooperation with partner nations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, as well as U.S. military operations in the region.

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