The World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday suspended food aid to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, blaming a financing crisis caused by unhonoured cash pledges.
The Rome-based UN agency said refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt risked going hungry this winter if donors do not urgently provide the $64 million needed to finance the distribution of food vouchers through December.
"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," said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
"The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families."
WFP said the refugees affected by the suspension of food aid included many children in Lebanon and Jordan facing harsh winters without adequate clothing or footwear, and living in tents already drenched in mud that has made hygiene precarious.
Cousin said distribution of electronic food vouchers would resume as soon as the cash came in.
WFP says it has fed millions of displaced people inside Syria and up to 1.8 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt in the three and a half years since the conflict erupted.