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Kuwait opens Syria humanitarian aid donor conference with $500 million pledge

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, right, shake hands as they pose for photos before the start of their meeting at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, Kuwait,Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)The Associated Press

  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon walks out to prepare to greet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before the start of their meeting at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)The Associated Press

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, is greeted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, left, before the start of their meeting at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)The Associated Press

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, walks in with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, left, before the start of their meeting at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)The Associated Press

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.