Syrian refugees
Sawssan Abdelwahab, who fled Idlib in Syria, walks with her children outside the refugees camp near the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern city of Yayladagi Feb. 16, 2012. Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

The United Nations on Monday appealed to raise $6.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria, to assist an estimated 8 million people who are in need of support due to the ongoing conflict between government forces and rebels, which began in March 2011 in the Middle Eastern nation.

The $6.5 billion in funds, which is sought to assist Syrians inside the country and across the region, is the biggest appeal so far by the U.N. toward a single emergency and accounts for half of the $13 billion in total life-saving aid the U.N. and its partners will require in 2014 worldwide.

“What is clear already is that 2014 will be a very challenging year for all of us. Globally, forced displacement levels are approaching record highs,” António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. “It is critically important that humanitarian organizations are properly in a position to respond.”

In Syria, the price of bread has gone up by about 500 percent in crisis-ridden areas, with 78 percent of communities surveyed saying that food is their greatest need, according to a new study by the International Rescue Committee, a global non-profit organization based in New York. Meanwhile, the Syrian pound has tumbled 80 percent since the start of the crisis, according to Reuters.

Globally, about 52 million people across 17 countries affected by political crises and natural disasters are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

Such nations include Syria and its neighbors, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, where displaced Syrians seek refuge, as well as crisis-fraught Yemen, which is reeling under widespread hunger and malnutrition after the ouster of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh early last year.

The Central African Republic, a landlocked nation bordering Cameroon and South Sudan, which has seen a number of coups and political instability over the last few decades, and the typhoon-affected Philippines, are also on top of a list of nations that need urgent humanitarian assistance.

“It is hard to put into words their despair, but also the dignity with which they endure the most painful and difficult circumstances. We count on the continued support from our partners as we work to save lives and support the millions of people caught in crisis,” Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said at the launch of the appeal in Geneva, according to an official release.