Thousands gather at London mass hunger rally as PM Cameron hosts talks ahead of G8

LONDON (AFP) - Thousands of people gathered in London's Hyde Park on Saturday to demand action on ending world hunger as Prime Minister David Cameron hosted talks on malnutrition ahead of the G8 Summit.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle were among those who took to the stage at the rally organised by the Enough Food for Everyone - IF campaign.

"Anyone who says that we can't crack the hunger crisis is wrong," Mr Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony of last year's London Olympic Games, told the crowd basking in the summer sunshine.

"This is my dream - it's a passionate dream - that in Olympics to come there will be no one dying of hunger in any of the countries whose wonderful flags wave in the wind. And it is a fight that will be won."

The rally, ten days ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17 to June 18, was timed to coincide with a meeting of governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and global organisations on how to tackle the scourge of malnutrition.

Mr Cameron hosted the talks with Brazilian Vice-President Michel Temer, which resulted in fresh pledges worth up to US$4.15 (S$5.15 billion) billion by 2020 and new commitments to tackle the problem.

The chronic lack of nutrients leads to the deaths of 8,000 children each day, making it the biggest underlying cause of death in the under-fives, according to Britain's Development Ministry.

Children who survive are often stunted and this reduces their ability to earn money when they grow up, in turn slashing economic growth by up to 11 per cent in the worst-affected countries.

"It's a huge problem," Mr Gates told Sky News television after attending the talks, but he insisted progress was possible.

"We can cut down this malnutrition, and that breaks the cycle because when kids grow up with the right nutrition they're able to raise up their economy."

Representatives of 19 African countries, numerous donor countries including the United States and Japan, the European Union, World Bank, World Health Organisation, Unicef and charities joined the meeting.

Several research and food companies also attended, pledging to boost efforts to produce nutrient-rich foods, such as food oil with added Vitamin A and D, and locally made supplements.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, recalled Ireland's famine during the 19th century as he pledged an extra US$169 million on global nutrition.

"Not too many generations ago we were the starving parents, the emaciated, shrunken and swollen children were our own," he said.