Venezuela: Faculty meals deliver diet to pre-school kids dealing with starvation – Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

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The World Food Program team is fighting against the clock for three food distributions in one day in remote regions

November 16, 2021, Alexis Masciarelli

8:30 am “We can’t start without coffee”

We have already driven an hour from Coro, the capital of the state of Falcón, where the World Food Program (WFP) returned to Venezuela in July after 46 years with a new school feeding program. The organization ended its previous support for Venezuelan schools as the country experienced steady economic growth. In the past four months, more than 130,000 WFP food packages have been distributed to 275 schools in Falcón.

In a street café in Urumaco I meet with Nora Arroyo, a nutritionist with her local NGO implementation partner CEPOREJUN. In the parking lot, Nora’s colleagues and the drivers of two trucks that transport the WFP’s food aid gather. Yesterday evening at 11 p.m. she finished her work – another long day of distribution to three schools has to start with black coffee and arepa, a traditional flatbread made from cornmeal.

9:15 am ‘Why does our body need proteins?’

A group of 15 parents, mostly women, are waiting in front of the first preschool, where we stop in the farming village of Soledad.

Here, 24 children and four school staff receive WFP supplies every month.

Nora invites them to gather under a tree. It is the third time that they have picked up the food rations (rice, lentils, salt and vegetable oil) for their children to take away.

She wants to hear how they prepare food at home. Lentil stew with vegetables is the children’s favorite. One of the adults, Iusmari, who is holding her baby, raises her hand.

“What we miss them is protein, we can’t really afford milk,” she says.

Nora explains: “You are right…. Proteins make tissue, they build muscle. ”She adds,“ The rice and lentils in these bags make protein. If, as you tell me, you mix them with vegetables, you incorporate vitamins. “

Schools are gradually reopening across Venezuela. Once the kitchens are up and running, WFP plans to serve hot meals to the children and staff on a daily basis.

10:30 am: “My daughter is gaining weight”

We arrive at a much larger school in the small town of Pedregral – where 254 children and 48 staff receive WFP materials every month.

The parents sit on long wooden benches in a shady area of ​​the playground. There are many other bags of groceries that need to be unloaded from the truck.

While Nora starts another conversation, 4-year-old Thania is playing with her mother. “She had nutritional problems,” says Maria. “With the food she gets, Thania is now gaining weight. She gained 2kg. She eats the lentils. She likes them with rice and other ingredients. ”

11:45 am “It’s a hard way”

After Pedregal, the asphalt disappears quickly. There are no other vehicles on this road than our convoy, which is stirring up the dust. Only cacti and thorny trees grow in this remote rocky landscape in the state of Falcón. Our pace slows down as we reach the hills. To Piedra Grande – today’s destination – it feels like 100 km. Parts of the stony road were washed away. Angel, the truck driver, maneuvers calmly in his cabin with reggaeton music. “This approach is difficult. You saw that some small bridges collapsed. But we will do it. We have to make these efforts to reach the children who need it. ”

1:30 p.m. ‘We need shovels’.

Angel and his assistants find themselves almost knee-deep in the mud. The truck got stuck in the mud and is crossing a large river bed. Branches and stones are thrown under the wheels, but it does not move.

“We need spades to free the wheels and the chassis,” says Angel. The villagers are alerted and eventually arrive on motorcycles with the tools they need. After a 90 minute delay we are back on the road. It is only a few kilometers to Piedra Grande. “In the rainy season we have to go back with off-road vehicles.”

3:15 pm “I am very grateful”

One last left turn and the small convoy finally reaches the village of Piedra Grande, three hours after leaving Pedregal – the challenging route we took is this community’s lifeline for fuel, food or medical care.

The school is tiny: a tin-roofed room, the interior walls of which are painted yellow and green. With apologies for the delay, the team is distributing the monthly WFP supplies to 27 children and 2 employees.

Ana is here to collect the take-away ration on behalf of Angel, her 3-year-old great-grandson. She took on this responsibility at the age of 73 when Angel’s father left the house – his mother is looking after another child who was hospitalized in a neighboring state. “A lot of people needed the support that you offer and they could use a wider variety of products,” says Ana. “Since the beginning of the program, we have seen that children are doing better. Angel is more observant when he’s playing. He says he wants to come to school so he doesn’t miss the meal. ”

Note: The trip described in this story took place on October 6, 2021.