The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged rich countries to fund an urgent appeal Tuesday for another 755 million dollars to help the starving, saying "we must feed the hungry."
Soaring food prices had created "an unprecedented challenge," he told journalists in the Swiss capital Berne, launching the appeal for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), dpa reported.
He also announced the creation of a new UN task force that he would personally chair.
He was in Switzerland at a two-day meeting of the heads of key UN agencies, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Countries such as India and Vietnam were also urged to lift a freeze on exports of rice aimed at creating price and supply stability domestically.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, at the same press conference, such controls only encouraged stockpiling and drove up food prices. "This is no natural catastrophe but for most people it is a disaster," he said.
He added: "Donors must act now."