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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The World Food Program will begin distributing vouchers to droves of hungry Venezuelan migrants arriving in neighboring Colombia as part of a program similar to that offered to refugees from war-torn nations like Syria.

Starting Monday, the United Nations food agency will offer thousands of migrants gathered in Colombia’s busiest border cities a $35 monthly voucher to be used at local grocery stores.

The aim is to provide sustenance to the most vulnerable migrants like malnourished children and pregnant women who are crossing in growing numbers by foot and bus into Colombia as they flee an increasingly autocratic government and an economic crisis considered worse than the Great Depression.

The program hopes to serve 350,000 over the next eight months but U.N. officials say they are relying on the international community to raise $46 million to carry out the costs. Thus far, international aid to help Colombia respond to the humanitarian crisis spilling across its border has been relatively slim.

The United States recently announced it will donate nearly $16 million in humanitarian aid, a fraction of what advocates say will be needed to feed arriving migrants in the short term.

“We hope the international community will understand that this is a burgeoning humanitarian crisis,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “And it’s important to begin providing services to this population so that the situation doesn’t deteriorate, not just in Colombia but throughout the region.”

Colombia shares a porous, 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Venezuela that desperate migrants are increasingly crossing in search of the food, medicine and stability they can no longer find at home. Recent surveys show a majority of Venezuelans report having lost weight because they couldn’t find enough to eat, and the U.N.’s own field studies indicate 90 percent of those fleeing do not know where they will get their next meals.

Officials estimate at least 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled in recent years.

The WFP program will rely initially on the agency’s own emergency funds. Barreto characterized it as potentially the largest U.N. food program in Latin America’s recent history. The WFP helps an estimated 80 million people facing food insecurity around the world each year.