"The use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21, 2013, triggered an intense debate over possible U.S. military intervention. Chemical weapons use and limited military strikes in response have the potential to impact an already dire humanitarian situation. The ongoing conflict in Syria that began in March 2011 has created one of the most pressing humanitarian crises in the world. An estimated 6.8 million people in Syria, almost one-third of the population, have been affected by the conflict, including estimates of between 4.2 million and 5 million displaced inside Syria. On September 3, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that the number of Syrians displaced as refugees exceeded 2 million, with 97% fleeing to countries in the immediate surrounding region, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa. The situation is fluid and continues to worsen, while humanitarian needs are immense and increase daily. […] The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance and is part of the massive, international humanitarian operation in parts of Syria and in neighboring countries. In FY2012 and as of mid-September 2013, the United States has allocated more than $1 billion to meet humanitarian needs using existing funding from global humanitarian accounts and some reprogrammed funding. U.S. humanitarian policy is guided by concerns about humanitarian access and protection within Syria; the large refugee flows out of the country that strain the resources of neighboring countries (and could negatively impact the overall stability of the region); and an already escalating and protracted humanitarian emergency."
CRS Report for Congress, R43119