Rishi Sunak said “no parent should ever have to watch their child starve” as he opened the Global Food Security Summit in London on Monday.
The Prime Minister also launched a White Paper setting out the Government’s long-term approach to international development more broadly up to 2030.
Speaking at the gathering at Lancaster House, Mr Sunak announced a new virtual hub to link UK scientists with global research initiatives aiming to develop climate and disease resistant crops.
He said: “It can’t be right that today in 2023, almost one billion people across the world regularly do not have enough to eat, that millions face hunger and starvation, and over 45 million children under five are suffering acute malnutrition.
“In a world of abundance, no one should die from lack of food, and no parent should ever have to watch their child starve.”
On the Israel-Hamas conflict, Mr Sunak reiterated his stance that Israel has the right to defend itself, but added: “It must also act within international humanitarian law.
“The situation on the ground is truly tragic and getting worse.”
He said the UK is pushing for substantive humanitarian pauses, “because the suffering of innocent civilians must end”.
Outside the central London venue, a small group of protesters demanded the Government call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Mr Sunak will use a separate speech in London to update the public on the economic situation ahead of Wednesday’s autumn statement.
The UK is hosting the food summit in London alongside Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Prime Minister said the White Paper would demonstrate the UK’s new approach to development, “going further to help the poorest and support those suffering in humanitarian crises”, leading not “merely with strength, but with compassion”, and harnessing Britain’s expertise in development and science.
“We live in a dangerous world, at a time of growing threats, strategic competition and conflict. Now, many of these challenges like the war in Ukraine have a direct impact on the poorest in the world.”
The UK is changing its approach “to deliver in a changing world”, Mr Sunak said.
He said the new science centre will “drive cutting-edge research on flood-tolerant rice, disease-resistant wheat and much more”, with the innovations reaching millions across the poorest countries as well as improving UK crop yields and driving down food prices.
The Prime Minister also announced £16 million in additional support for the international child nutrition fund.
UK support for child malnutrition will match pound for pound the amount the worst-affected countries including Uganda, Ethiopia and Senegal invest of their own resources in tackling the issue, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.
Up to £100 million in humanitarian funding is being released to countries worst hit by food insecurity including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Afghanistan, and to countries impacted by climate-related weather events such as Malawi, the FCDO said.
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for international development, said: “Rishi Sunak is the chancellor who abolished DFID (Department for International Development) and slashed aid spending, costing lives and trashing Britain’s reputation as the gold standard in international development. Asking him to repair the damage is like calling on the arsonist to put out the fire.
“On nutrition alone, his decisions contributed to food rations for 440,000 Kenyan refugees being reduced to 52% of the basic food need.”
International development minister Andrew Mitchell said: “Many children go to bed hungry and malnourished.
“At this summit, the UK and its partners will be united in our determination to change that. Cutting edge science and innovative partnerships will help Britain create a healthier, more secure and prosperous world for us all.
“Today we will launch the UK international development White Paper, setting out our long-term vision for addressing critical global challenges, including preventing and treating child wasting, through new partnerships and sources of finance.
“The Global Food Summit is a practical example of how we are already working to make that vision happen.”
The FCDO says the international development White Paper’s priorities include mobilising international finance, reforming the international system, harnessing innovation, and putting women and girls centre stage.
It will also set out how the UK will go beyond giving aid money and instead work in partnerships with countries to tackle extreme poverty and climate change, the Government said.