At Work in the Fields of Anarchy
'There is going to be a shooting here and it is a toss up who is going to get the boy's first round. The soldier, about ten years old, is jamming the barrel of his gun hard against my driver's face and unless the kid decides to go for me, the relief worker, my driver is going to get his head blown off.'
In 1998, on the lookout for adventure, John Burnett left the comforts of Western life to become a UN relief worker in Somalia. He was completely unprepared for the realities of working in a country without government or law, where the only authority comes from a loaded gun. Held at gunpoint by a child soldier, having to watching a baby die of malaria in his arms, the experience profoundly changed the way he saw the world.
'Engrossing... [Burnett] understands the mix of altruism, adrenalin, financial reward and companionship that drives many aid workers... He sees the way that the various aid agencies (even competing UN agencies) work against each other to gain credit and press exposure. And he learns, through bitter experience, how savage people can be when they are desperate.' Sunday Times
'Part reportage, part memoir, part polemic, Burnett's account of his misadventures in Somalia is a journey into a heartless darkness. This book is a tough and often painful read not simply for it's wrenching accounts of human suffering and bureaucratic incompetence, but also because Burnett documents, with admirable lack of self pity, his own loss of innocence through its various stages of shock, bewilderment, incredulity, frustration and contempt.' Evening Standard
'Haunting...Burnetts message is simple, and it is not new: being an aid worker in the field is dangerous... Different is the clarity and passion with which he delivers it.' Caroline Moorehead, Sunday Telegraphshow more