Where Soldiers Fear to Tread: A Relief Worker's Tale of Survival

( 2 )


"In this gripping firsthand account, Burnett shares his experiences as a relief worker in Somalia during the flood relief operations of 1997 to 1998. Ravaged by monsoons, starvation, and feuding warlords, Somalia continues to be one of the most dangerous places on earth. Both a personal story and a broader tale of war, the politics of aid, and the horrifying reality of child-soldiers, his chronicle represents the astonishing challenges faced by humanitarian workers across the globe." "There are currently thousands of civilian workers serving in
... See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (19) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $3.04   
  • Used (17) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
Seller since 2011

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

2005 Hardcover New in new dust jacket. BOOK STORE BUY OUT! THIS IS A BRAND NEW BOOK! Some books may have a book store price sticker on them.

Ships from: Olive Branch, MS

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
0553803743 Brand NEW Hardcover with beautiful Dust Jacket, FIRST EDITION / FIRST PRINTING, Bantam 2005, full number line 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1, meticulously inspected, packed ... securely, with care and extra padding, and shipped ASAP, we have quick responsive customer service, and our feedback score speaks louder than this text, we also ship internationally, and your purchase is always satisfaction guaranteed, Read more Show Less

Ships from: Waltham, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Where Soldiers Fear to Tread: A Relief Worker's Tale of Survival

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price
Sending request ...


"In this gripping firsthand account, Burnett shares his experiences as a relief worker in Somalia during the flood relief operations of 1997 to 1998. Ravaged by monsoons, starvation, and feuding warlords, Somalia continues to be one of the most dangerous places on earth. Both a personal story and a broader tale of war, the politics of aid, and the horrifying reality of child-soldiers, his chronicle represents the astonishing challenges faced by humanitarian workers across the globe." "There are currently thousands of civilian workers serving in over one hundred nations. Today, they are as likely to be killed in the line of duty as are trained soldiers. In the past five years alone, more UN aid workers have been killed than peacekeepers. When Burnett joined the World Food Program, he was told their mission would be safe, their help welcomed - and they would be pulled out if bullets started to fly." "When he arrived in Somalia, Burnett found a nation rent by a decade of anarchy, a people wary of foreign intervention, and a discomfiting uncertainty that the UN would remember he'd been sent there at all." From Burnett's young Somali driver to the armed civilians, warlords, and colleagues he would never see again, this memoir delves into the complexity of humanitarian missions and the wonder of everyday people who risk their lives to help others in places too dangerous to send soldiers.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The narrative sweeps one along … Written like a day-to-day journal, When Soldiers Fear to Tread offers many thumbnail sketches of natives and relief workers."—Providence Journal

"He understands the mix of altruism, adrenaline, 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"—London Sunday Times

“A journey into a heartless darkness. . .(An) affecting, timely and engaging memoir of life at the blunt edge of aid."—Evening Standard, London

“Burnett’s message is simple and it is not new: being an aid worker in the field is dangerous. What makes it different is the clarity and passion with which he delivers it. . . He writes well and convincingly . . . with a minimum of jargon and eye for detail.”—The Sunday Telegraph, London

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553803747
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

John S. Burnett is a former reporter for United Press International. He has written for National Geographic, the Guardian, and the New York Times. He is also the author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Where Soldiers Fear to Tread

By John S. Burnett

Random House

John S. Burnett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0553382608

Chapter One

1. The Crisis

One villager reported the building simply collapsed without warning. The woman and her three children and the two old people on the tin roof vanished under the fast-moving brown floodwaters and were swept away.

Marerey was one of the villages on the banks of the southern stretch of the Webbi Jubba. It was disappearing fast, ripped apart by the rising river that had broken its banks and was sweeping away everything in its path.

Its people were a strong lot, used to hardship. They had weathered searing droughts and previous floods, the pestilence of locusts and mysterious diseases. They were more fortunate than others.

One time not so long ago, there had been a sugar factory on the other side of the airstrip, where many worked, and so the villagers could afford tin roofs instead of thatch, could afford to build their homes of mud bricks instead of wattle. There had even been a school. But the fighting had come and families fought families and the area had been divvied up by the warlords and their clans. The sugar factory had been destroyed in one of the many seesaw battles for turf and was now no more than a skeletal ruin. There had been things to salvage, however, and the youths who remained in the village, who had not left to join the fighting, had scavenged wood and cement blocks, slabs of Styrofoam, wire and rope, furniture and vessels, poles and plastic.

Marerey was in the breadbasket of Somalia, a land of cultivated fields and grazing plains, veined with a complex network of irrigation canals and roads; those who had not worked at the factory had raised cattle and goats, sugarcane, bananas, maize, and sorghum. Although they lived on the river, they were not fisher- men and they seldom ate fish. They were pastoralists. The Jubba, one of Somalia's only two perennial streams, existed in their eyes mainly to provide the water for the fields and to carry away the effluence. The muddy river originating in Ethiopia to the north was not very polluted; there had been few pesticides in use and little industry and it was still pretty clean by the time it got this far, tainted only by the raw sewage from the communities on the river. The men usually quit their homes around dawn and took their places in a row, lifted their sarongs or dropped their trousers, squatted over the river, and performed their ablutions. The women performed theirs on the bend downriver where the Jubba took a turn.

The rains that were causing the floods had started suddenly. They say that one day, one month, it was normally dry and plans were made for the harvest. Then the next day the black clouds rolled in off the ocean to the east, merging with storms that drifted down from the north, and the skies opened up. And still it rained.

There were not many left in Marerey. Most of the residents had fled earlier to the narrow earthen dike about a half mile downriver, taking what little they could; the dike was bigger then and it had looked solid and safe and indestructible. They were, however, only a little safer there than had they taken refuge on the roofs of their homes, for the fast-moving river was steadily eating away at the dike; sections of earth peeled away, broke off, and tumbled into the flood.

Those who decided to stay in Marerey huddled together for warmth on top of their roofs under the pelting rains that never seemed to end. Some had tucked themselves under plastic sheeting; others had only cotton cloth as cover, and that only deadened the sting from the deluge.

The waters were rising steadily, two to three inches an hour. The night before, the river had climbed over the embankment and crept through the village, slowly, like a serpent searching, covering, consuming everything in its path. By daybreak, the roads, the town center, and finally the floors of the homes had disappeared under the flood. Those who took to their roofs watched the water below reach ever higher and spread out over the plains nearby, through the fields of maize that had been nearly ready to harvest, and vanish in the distance toward the untilled savanna. In this gray and dismal afternoon, this was a landscape without definition. In days--perhaps in hours if the rains didn't let up--the entire region would be just one large lake with only a mound of dry land here and there isolated as islands.

As the floodwater continued to rise, it no longer extended gradually as spillover but picked up the swiftly moving current and became the river itself. It tore at the foundations and sucked away the ground from under the heavier homes. Those on the roofs grasped the sharp edges of the corrugated iron, fearing, sensing, that these were their last moments on something solid before falling into the turgid waters below.

The buildings under them swayed from the pressure of the current; the mud-daub houses with thatched roofs were surprisingly solid, but they could never be expected to withstand the force of the flood. They stood defiantly against the rising waters until finally, one by one, they loosened their hold on the land and began to move slowly with the river. They broke apart and became just so much unidentified flotsam.

There was a grand old mango tree on the submerged embankment on the other side. One witness told of an old man who balanced on a thick bough on the second level. He clasped two small children in one arm and circled the tree with the other. He stared in frozen disbelief, too afraid for panic, at the water pressing against the trunk on its passage down to the sea. The bloated, whitening carcass of something bigger than a cow, a camel perhaps, broke the surface just below as if emerging from some depth; it floated briefly, then vanished, pulled under the swirl of the furious river. He felt the force of the raging stream as tight vibrations. Occasionally there was a shudder as the current changed and a more massive wall of water challenged the tree.

* * *

RUSS Ulrey, the regional logistics officer of the UN's World Food Program, stood beside his desk staring out the window at the steady rain and tried to suppress his frustration. He had just left the meeting of diplomats, agency heads, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, donor groups, and donor nations. He shouldn't have expected anything different for this crisis: The competition, the gentlemanly infighting, the need for public approbation, the breast-beating--these were the negative elements that bothered him the most during these emergencies. There were already signs that the same conflicts were cropping up again. Despite it all, however, the job always did get done: Many of the malnourished and starving were fed, some of the refugees relocated and housed, many of the sick and dying treated and saved. Yet he damn well regretted that there was such competition on the way to saving lives.

The rain outside his office swept across the manicured lawn of the UN compound in Nairobi like a moving wall. The cement walks were almost underwater and he watched two women pause under an overhang, slip off their shoes, and sprint across to the next building. The steady heavy rains were an irritant to the office workers.

The crisis on the Horn of Africa had come suddenly. Last year, the Deyr, Somalia's secondary rainy season, had been unseasonably sparse, and the expectations had been that this year the drought would be more severe. This was an El Nino year, however, and it had been anybody's guess what the season would bring. Local farm knowledge didn't help: The mangoes were hanging heavily on the trees as usual and the sugarcane was a little stunted, but that didn't mean much (it was not like looking at woolly-bear caterpillars in Russ' native Michigan and measuring the black stripe to determine how severe the winter would be). Nothing, according to the locals on the Jubba, heralded the disaster that was to come.

Among the papers on his desk were the reports from the U.S. State Department's Agency for International Development Famine Early Warning System:

Unusually heavy and sustained rains have fallen in the Jubba Valley during October. Many homes in Gedo and Middle Jubba regions have been destroyed by floods and possessions swept away, prompting a new wave of displaced people in need of food, medicine, drinking water, blankets, and shelter. Floodwaters are moving downriver to Lower Jubba. Water-borne diseases are a threat. Hundreds of underground grain storage pits have been flooded.

A low-pressure trough had dropped from northern Europe to the Horn of Africa and had collided with the retreating Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the band of permanent low pressure that circles the planet near the equator. The combination of the two systems created a low-pressure belt over the Horn that pulled in moisture off the Indian Ocean. Unusually heavy rains in the north began falling in the Ethiopian highlands on the Great Rift Valley in October. There were some breaks in the weather, but in early November another wave of storms charged in from the ocean and the rain never stopped. Above-average sea temperatures fed the drifting storm clouds, and meteorologists predicted that until those temperatures fell, the rains would only become more frequent and more intense. The swollen streams poured into the Ganale River, and in Ethiopia thousands were left homeless. The Ganale fed the Webbi Jubba and the Webbi Shabeelle, and the normally arid Ogad?en region had been flooded. While Ethiopia faced a crisis, it paled compared to that which was to strike downriver in the fertile midsection of Somalia.

Russ had flown over the region the day before. Keeping just above gunshot range, the small airplane followed what he guessed was the original course of the Jubba to the ocean port of Kismayo. Many of the dikes already had been breached. He saw, felt the panic of those massed tightly on the small patches of bare land, on their roofs, on the few remaining raised roads, even in the trees as they waited for help.

There were a half million people stranded on the high ground, and most of them had no access to shelter, food, drinking water, medicine. How was he going to deliver hundreds of tons of food out to these remote and isolated communities? Airdrops into the floodwaters were not an option. Trucks could go only so far be- fore running out of land. Helicopters could deliver to distribu- tion bases, but only small boats could get the supplies to those huddled on islands near their flimsy shelters, surrounded by the rising water. That was his priority--boats and people to drive them.

Russ was not unaccustomed to the challenges of putting together a lifesaving mission: delivering emergency supplies, coordinating with other often-competing agencies within the UN and assisting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Red Cross, Medecins sans Frontieres, Oxfam, CARE, and dozens of others. As WFP regional logistics officer, Russ handled humanitarian operations for the entire Horn--parts of Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan--an area as large as the landmass from New York to the Mississippi. Until now his primary task had been Operation Lifeline Sudan, a WFP mission that provided food for more than two and a half million people displaced by the civil war or suffering from massive crop losses. He had been responsible for putting together the largest humanitarian airlift in history in terms of tons per day delivered, he was proud to say.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Where Soldiers Fear to Tread by John S. Burnett Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2005

    Bullet train

    This book reads like a bullet train from New York to Mogadishu, from heaven to hell, a pageturner if ever there was one. You get a privileged insight into the life of a reliefworker, a first hand account of the absurd madness of a godforsaken place where anarchy rules and where lives have no value. Speedboats donated by western governments to distribute relief supplies quickly turn into perfect terror tools for local warlords, who find them to be ideal to impose their will on the population, specially when mounted with a machine gun... John Burnett completely repaints the picture that I had in my mind of a relief worker. Only guts, ingenuity and a whole lotta luck will help you to get out alive of a place like this. From the comfort of your home to the nightmare of Somalia is just a book away...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    The Real Heroes -- and a Great Read

    There are not many books that you pick up and don¿t put down until its finished but I¿ve found one. It starts fast and stays that way, building the suspense. The TV survival shows pale in comparison to the events in this book. This is fascinating read and it certainly opened my eyes, from the politicizing of aid to dodging the bullets in a war zone. These people, the relief workers, are the real heroes. As the cover says ¿ anybody who gives 20 dollars for a humanitarian crisis, better read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)