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$2.4 billion in aid pledged for war-torn Syrians

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

KUWAIT CITY — Western nations and their gulf Arab allies led the promises of support at a fundraising conference on Wednesday in Kuwait that generated pledges of at least $2.4 billion to alleviate the suffering of Syrians. The U.N. secretary-general says half the population, 9.3 million people, are in urgent need of aid.

Millions have been displaced from their homes as a result of the crisis, both inside the country and in neighboring states struggling to cope with the influx. Getting aid to many of those in need inside Syria is a challenge because they remain trapped in embattled areas.

The United Nations is asking for $6.5 billion this year to help Syrians affected by the war — its largest-ever funding appeal for a single crisis. Officials did not expect to raise the entire amount in Kuwait but hope the gathering focuses greater attention on the conflict.

“The fighting has set Syria back by years, even decades,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the event in the lavish Bayan Palace in the Kuwaiti capital.

Ban said humanitarian and development agencies “face unprecedented demands” because of the crisis, and that it “is vital ... the burden be shared” in helping meet Syria's growing aid needs.

Kuwait's emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, opened the conference by pledging $500 million, significantly topping its pledge of $300 million last year.

He pressed the U.N. Security Council to exert greater effort in bringing an end to the crisis.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. pledge of $380 million will bring America's humanitarian aid to Syrian victims to $1.7 billion since the war began.

Saudi Arabia pledged $250 million; European Union countries, a total of $753 million.

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