Kuwait's emir says the Gulf nation is pledging $500 million to alleviate the suffering of Syrians affected by the country's civil war.

Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah made the announcement on Wednesday at the start of an international fundraising conference in Kuwait.

Last year's donor conference in Kuwait raised more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid pledges. Much of that came from Western-allied Gulf states.

Humanitarian needs have escalated dramatically since a similar donor conference in the oil-rich Gulf nation last January.

The United Nations warns that more than 9 million people need assistance as the conflict grinds on.