UNITED NATIONS — The head of the U.N. food agency is telling world leaders that the only way to end global hunger is to end conflicts, which would also free up billions of dollars to build roads and infrastructure and promote economic growth in all developing countries.

David Beasley said in an interview this week that 19 countries are now in “protracted conflict” – which is “more conflict than we’ve ever had” – and 80 percent of the World Food Program’s funds are now going into conflict regions.

For many years, he said, the number of people facing extreme hunger fell despite the increase in global population, but in the last few years the number of people facing extreme hunger has increased from 777 million to 815 million in 2016 – “all because of man-made conflict.”

In 2015, world leaders adopted new U.N. goals, first and foremost to eradicate extreme poverty – people living on less than $1.25 a day – in all countries by 2030.

“Zero hunger by 2030? It’s a joke without ending the conflicts,” Beasley said. “If we end the conflicts, with the expertise and the food sector of the world, we can end world hunger.”

Beasley said he has recently visited many countries in conflict – Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.

“It’s a disgrace on humanity, the number of innocent victims of conflict, children, that are starving to death because of nothing but man-made conflict,” he said.

He urged powerful nations around the world to work with the United Nations to end conflicts.