KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait pledged $500 million and the United States promised $380 million to alleviate the suffering of Syrians affected by the country’s civil war at the start of an international fundraising conference in the Gulf nation Wednesday that international aid officials hope will generate billions of dollars needed this year.

The UN is appealing for $6.5 billion this year to help Syrians affected the war, its largest-ever funding request for a single crisis. Officials don’t expect to raise the entire amount in Kuwait.

Last year’s donor conference in Kuwait raised more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid pledges, and officials are hoping to at least raise that much again this year. 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 9.3 million people inside Syria need assistance as the conflict grinds on, including some 6.5 million inside Syria who have been driven from their homes.

More than 2 million people have been uprooted from their homes, many scattered in refugee camps and informal settlements dotting neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

The Kuwait meeting, chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, takes place a week before peace talks on Syria are due to be held in Switzerland. The UN chief on Tuesday visited a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq, where he praised the largely autonomous Kurdish regional government for hosting more than 200,000 refugees on territory it administers.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press