The World Food Programme (WFP) has announced it is suspending food aid for 1.7million Syrian refugees due to lack of funds.
Its food vouchers programme has been helping displaced people within Syria as well as refugees in surrounding countries - Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt - eat since 2011. The WFP is funded entirely by voluntary donations and it says many commitments to donate "remain unfulfilled". It had warned last month that it may have to suspend aid for refugees in December and has said it may need to do the same in January for internally displaced people within Syria.
What are the implications?
According to the WFP itself, the impact will be "disastrous" for many families, especially as winter approaches. The body's executive director Ertharin Cousin appealed to donors, saying: "A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighbouring host countries."
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, meanwhile, said that the timing could not be worse with winter approaching.
Winter is already an extremely difficult period for Syrian refugees, but the suspension of food assistance at this critical juncture is going to be devastating. It will impact tens of thousands of the most vulnerable refugee families who are almost entirely dependent on international aid. I urgently appeal to the international community – support WFP now, don’t let refugees go hungry.
- António Guterres
The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned the food aid suspension could be "particularly devastating" in Lebanon, which hosts 1.1m refugees, where many families do not live in formal camps.
Is there any chance of a reprieve?
Yes, if people donate. The WFP says it needs $64 million (£40.65million) to carry out its operations in December alone and the UNHCR - which is currently distributing blankets, stove and vouchers for fuel to Syrian refugees to help them get through the winter - has appealed for immediate help on their behalf.
According to the UNHCR, there are more than 3.2 million Syrian refugees outside of the country and 7.6 million people displaced within the country.