First shipment from World Food Programme arrives in Venezuela

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CARACAS (Reuters) - The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that its first shipment of food intended for Venezuelan school children had arrived in the South American country, which is suffering a humanitarian crisis spurred by an economic collapse.

The WFP in April announced a deal with President Nicolas Maduro's government to reach some 185,000 children this year and expand to 1.5 million by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Child,to%20care%20for%20the%20malnourishedmalnutrition is on the rise in the once-prosperous OPEC nation.

The first 42,000 food packages including rice, lentils, salt and vegetable oil will be distributed to children under age six in areas affected by food insecurity in Maracaibo, Venezuela's second-largest city, the WFP said.

Since Venezuelan schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the packages will be distributed as take-home rations.

WFP said it would manage its own supply chain. Venezuela's political opposition, which labels Maduro a dictator, has long accused the government of conditioning state food assistance on political loyalty, a claim Maduro denies.

Humanitarian aid groups had pressed Maduro for years to allow the WFP to distribute food in Venezuela before he acceded in April. The move was seen by some analysts and Western diplomats as an olive branch as he seeks to persuade the United States and others to lift sanctions aimed at ousting him.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Luc Cohen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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