With Haiti in Ruins, Some U.N. Relief Workers Live Large on ‘Love Boat’
Make no mistake, I feel next to nothing for the Haitian people. This story is all about the UN and it’s hypocrisy.
For the United Nations World Food Program, it was a moment of satisfaction: the U.N.’s flagship relief agency announced on its Web site on March 19 that two gleaming passenger ships had docked in ravaged Port au Prince harbor.
What the Web site announcement did not disclose was that the vessels were intended to house not homeless Haitian refugees, but employees of the U.N. itself. Nor did it publicize the cost of leasing the ships: $112,500 a day. Nor did it mention that one of the vessels is owned by a company closely linked to the government of Venezuelan strongman President Hugo Chavez.
Another thing not mentioned: Even U.N. staffers regularly refer to one of the ships as “the Love Boat.”
Then the WFP apparently had second thoughts about the whole announcement.
A slideshow photo essay had shown the two vessels, the Ola Esmeralda and the Sea Voyager, at berths near the earthquake-shattered Haitian capital. Then the photos and the story disappeared, not only from the home page but apparently from the WFP’s public news story Web archive. The official explanation from a WFP spokesman: “Photos, text and video material are regularly being added and removed from WFP’s Web site as stories are refreshed, restructured and replaced.”
In a city where much of the housing was destroyed by the earthquake, U.N. staffers’ amenities aboard the two passenger ships include laundry service, catered food, hot showers and beds with fresh linens for subsidized rates of $40 per day for WFP staffers, and half that for officials of MINUSTAH.
The mass of Haitian civilians, however, are not among those invited to stay. “I think they understand,” says Mulet. “They have gone through the same trauma themselves. They know we are there to provide shelter for them.”
Mulet compares the situation to what occurs 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.”
The WFP is renting the 286-foot, 5,000-ton Sea Voyager (capacity: about 220 passengers) for $35,000 per day, plus a whopping additional $5,000 daily for fuel. Total for 90 days: $3,600,000.
The 480-foot, 11,000-ton Ola Esmeralda — which now operates directly under the administrative auspices of MINUSTAH — is renting for $72,500 per day, all costs included.
Total for 90 days: $6,525,000. Average cost per passenger per day (the vessel accommodates 470 plus crew): about $154.25, minus the staff contributions.
Over the lives of their respective 90-day initial contracts, that brings the total outlay for the ships to $112,500 per day, or $10,125,000, minus the staff shares.