Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, or make a new home in neighboring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to Europe, hoping to find acceptance and opportunity. And harsh winters and hot summers make life as a refugee even more difficult. At times, the effects of the conflict can seem overwhelming. But one fact is simple: millions of Syrians need our help. According to the U.N., $4.6 billion was required to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable Syrians in 2017 — but less than half (only $1.7 billion) has been received. You can help. The more you know about the crisis, the more we can do together to help those in need. The lifesaving work we do, empowering people to survive through crisis and build better lives, is only possible with your knowledge and support. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other - as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets. The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad's resignation. The government's use of force to crush the dissent merely hardened the protesters' resolve. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets across the country. Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, sowing political divisions as countries argue over sharing the burden. A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced inside Syria, 1.2 million were driven from their homes in 2015 alone. The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016. About 70% of the population is without access to adequate drinking water, one in three people are unable to meet their basic food needs, and more than 2 million children are out of school, and four out of five people live in poverty. The warring parties have compounded the problems by refusing humanitarian agencies access to civilians in need. Up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who do not have access to life-saving aid.