In a story posted last week on Fox News’s website, George Russell laid out one of the most outrageous examples of poor judgment and profligacy seen in recent years from a U.N. organization. As Russell reports, two passenger ships (the Ola Esmeralda and the Sea Voyager) have been rented by the World Food Program — a U.N. humanitarian-relief organization — for $112,500 per day for the purposes of “accommodation for many of the U.N.’s international staff” off the coast of Haiti. The ships are also available to NGO workers and dignitaries such as Brazilian president Luiz Inacio da Silva, who recently visited the impoverished and earthquake-ravaged island. The total cost of renting these ships is projected to be over $10 million for the first 90 days. U.N. staff call one of the ships the “Love Boat.”
Sensing that the news might not be received well, WFP quickly pulled down its own article (complete with pictures) about the ships. Russell preserved the story, however, and does a wonderful job of exposing the many questions surrounding WFP’s decision to rent these ships. Among the highlights:
WFP is being overcharged, because the projected expense is millions of dollars more than what the ships would have been likely to earn through normal operation.
The Ola Esmeralda is owned by a Venezuelan company with close ties to Pres. Hugo Chávez.
Also included in the story is a revealing insight into the U.N. mindset. Russell asked Edmond Mulet, special representative in Haiti of the U.N. secretary general and head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) in the country, about the decision. Mulet’s answer, spread through several quotes in the story, was shocking: “It is the least we could do for them. They are working 14, 16 hours a day. The place was pulverized. Living conditions are really appalling. . . . [When] oxygen masks come down in a falling plane, the first thing you do is put them on yourself. You have to be in good shape in order to help the Haitians.”
Apparently, a visit to the Lido Deck is just the thing for staying in “good shape.”