UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will chair a pledging conference in late January seeking $1.5 billion to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Syria during the first half of 2013.

Ban is calling for donor countries to do more to alleviate the suffering of more than 5 million Syrians inside and outside the country, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Friday.

He said the conference, hosted by the government of Kuwait in Kuwait City on Jan. 30, “is a timely and much-needed opportunity to address the funding gap.”

Over 2 million people are displaced inside Syria and more than 540,000 have fled to neighboring countries. The U.N. refugee agency has warned that the number of Syrian refugees could double to 1.1 million by June 2013.

The director of U.N. humanitarian operations said last week that crises driven by drought, floods and conflicts are escalating every year and there isn’t enough money to help more than 50 million people from Syria to Africa’s parched Sahel region that need help.

John Ging said that for thousands of needy people the result is more suffering, worsening malnutrition and loss of life.

“The needs are outstripping the means,” he said in a year-end interview. “There’s a global financial crisis and this is just an equation that doesn’t work. We have to find solutions.”

The U.N. has launched its biggest-ever appeal — for $8.5 billion to help 51 million people in 16 countries in 2013.