The head of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, blamed the famine in Africa's Horn of Africa region on climate change and "our collective failure to end the Somali civil war."
"While this is a tragedy triggered by the worst drought in 60 years, it is largely about our collective failure to end the Somali civil war," Kaberuka said.
Much of Somalia has been wracked by lawlessness and violence since longtime leader Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in a coup in late 1991.
"Before food shortages become famine, there's something else that comes into play," Donald Kaberuka told AFP in an interview.
"In this case, the epicenter of the crisis is in those parts of Somalia that are not functioning," he said.
The two regions in southern Somalia where the UN last month declared a famine are controlled by rebel groups, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab.
Shebab is "playing with lives" by barring foreign aid from reaching starving people in drought-hit Somalia, Kaberuka said
A famine declared last month in two southern Somali regions controlled by the Shebab rebel movement has grown to huge proportions and now threatens millions in the Horn of Africa movement with starvation and malnutrition, Kaberuka said.
Ten million people in the Horn of Africa are now in need of food aid, two million children are malnourished and half a million people are in danger of starvation, he added.
"The urgent thing now is to save lives, but we also need to work on a long-term plan with the regional authorities to try to address the fundamental problem which basically is to create resilience and sustainable livelihoods among the livestock keepers in the region," Kaberuka told AFP.
By developing water systems, storage facilities, and a functioning infrastructure in Somalia, "our sentiment is that droughts can come, but without becoming famine," he said.
He noted that when countries with developed infrastructures, such as Britain and the United States, are hit by water shortages or even a drought, there is not mass famine.
Kaberuka also urged the international community to "get in and help" the parts of Somalia that are peaceful and have rule of law, namely Somaliland and Puntland in the north of the country, and called for more logistical aid for the African Union force, AMISOM, which is trying to stabilize Somalia.
"AMISOM is under-manned, under-equipped, does not have enough logistical support. If it did, it could easily have brought stability to that part of Somalia to allow Somalis to begin to talk about the kind of government they want," Kaberuka, a former finance minister of Rwanda, told AFP.
"No one is saying they should put in soldiers from abroad -- Africans are capable of doing that -- but they need logistics support," Kaberuka said, citing things like food rations, transportation and helicopters.
An intervention in Somalia by foreign troops, including the United States, under a UN mandate in 1993, ended disastrously, with two dozen Pakistani UN soldiers and 18 Americans being killed by Somali insurgents in fierce fighting.
The United States pulled out of the UN force after the bodies of some of the slain US soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by cheering Somalis.
Kaberuka, who was re-elected in 2010 to a second term as the head of the African Development Bank, is in the United States to attend meetings on international development.