CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The food assistance agency of the United Nations announced Monday that it will begin operations in Venezuela after reaching an agreement with the South American nation’s government.
The efforts of the World Food Program will focus on feeding children in the areas with the highest prevalence of food insecurity. The agency plans to gradually expand programs to reach 1.5 million children by providing school meals, spending on remodeling school cafeterias and training staff on food safety standards.
“The children and the schools will be at the centre of our operation,” World Food Program executive director David Beasley said in a statement. “We believe the school is the most appropriate platform for WFP to reach communities in an independent manner.”
The announcement comes as Venezuela grapples with soaring food prices amid four-digit inflation, making it challenging for families to afford nutritious meals as most workers earn less than the equivalent of $2 a month. The Rome-based agency has estimated that one of every three Venezuelans is struggling to consume enough daily calories.
A joint analysis by World Food Program and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in October included Venezuela among 20 countries that were “likely to face potential spikes in high acute food insecurity” over the following three to six months and required “urgent attention.”
The agency’s goal is to reach 185,000 students by year’s end and 1.5 million by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. It estimated the food assistance program’s annual budget at $190 million.
“We are relying on the support of the international donor community to back our operation in Venezuela,” said Beasley, who traveled to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, to meet with government officials.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted a video of himself greeting Beasley at the presidential palace. Maduro plans to give an update soon on the government’s program that provides food assistance to 7 million people, according to the video.