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UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

FILE - A girl carries bread outside the tents in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp in Azaz, Oct. 27, 2014.

The United Nations has launched a massive new appeal to help the nearly 18 million people affected by Syria's almost four-year conflict, saying it needs $8.4 billion to provide aid next year.

The effort is aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones.

U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres, speaking at a donor conference in Berlin, said the level of aid is the "absolute minimum for survival" - not what the U.N. would need to do a "perfect job."

The U.N. plan would provide protection, food, shelter and health care. It also includes infrastructure and service improvements in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, where local authorities are straining under the burden of providing for Syrian refugees.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos urged donors Thursday to help give ordinary Syrians hope for survival.

Syria's conflict began as peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but quickly spiraled into a civil war that has left more than 200,000 people dead.

The U.N. appeal details the devastation from the fighting, saying more than half of the country's hospitals and a quarter of its schools have been damaged or destroyed.