The United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP) announced the suspension of its food aid program to Syrian refugees who have fled their war-torn nation. More than 1.7 million refugees currently rely on the program for basic food provisions. The program provides food vouchers for Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The vouchers – some electronic – are used to purchase food in local shops.

The UN reports:

Resized photo-Protection StoryA 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,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, in an appeal to donors. “The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families.”

The UN blames the WFP’s financial crisis on unfulfilled donor commitments; $64M is required immediately to assist refugees in the month of December. Stopping the program will also negatively impact the host countries; the UN WFP estimates the food assistance program has put about $800M into local economies in those nations. It is unclear what – if any – aid  host countries will be able to provide to the impoverished refugees.

The Associated Press also reported on the breaking news:

“The suspension is particularly troublesome for Lebanon, which hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, or a quarter of the country’s entire population. There are no formal camps. Many of the refugees live in encampments, collective shelters and abandoned construction sites. Many eke out a living hand-to-mouth on U.N. cash aid and food vouchers.”

BREAKING NEWS: Due to a generous response to the World Food Programme plea, aid has been resumed through the month of December.