On September 19, Turkey opened a 30-kilometer stretch of its border with Syria, in order to allow civilians fleeing ISIS's advance to escape to safety. Within three days, at least 130,000 refugees had flooded across the border.
To put that extraordinary influx in perspective, Turkey received more refugees during that single weekend than it did in the entire period from May 1 to September 18. This chart of Syrian refugees who've crossed into Turkey since February — months during which the refugee flows were already disastrously high — shows just how extreme the last week has been:
Most of the refugees were from Kobane, a largely-Kurdish city in northern Syria's Aleppo province. Kobane has been an oasis of relative safety during the Syrian conflict, and was host to approximately 200,000 displaced people who had escaped violence elsewhere in Syria. In other words, it was something of a haven, until ISIS began to seize control of approximately 60 villages in the area surrounding Kobane, and looked poised to take the city itself. That is when people there fled north into Turkey.
But a number of civilians remain in Kobane, and the opening in the Turkish border has proven to be short-lived: by the morning of September 21, the Turkish government had already closed all but two of the border posts in the affected area. The US began airstrikes on the region early the morning of the September 23. It is not yet clear how the bombing campaign will affect the civilians who were not able to cross the border before it closed.
In July, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council that the Syrian refugee crisis is the worst the world has seen since the Rwandan genocide two decades ago. According to UNHCR statistics, more than 3 million Syrians are registered as refugees, including more than 1.89 million in Lebanon, nearly 1 million in Turkey, and 618,086 in Jordan.
The crisis is suffering from a devastating funding shortfall. UNHCR estimates that $3.7 billion will be needed for the response, but less than half of the needed funds have been pledged so far. On September 17, the World Food Program also warned that lack of funds will lead to "deep cuts" to food aid for Syrian refugees, and for civilians left in Syria.