More than ten years ago now, I spent an amazing few weeks in Africa, particularly in Burnundi in the central Great Lakes Region. I was doing rsearch for the book that became The Violets of Usambara, but also trying to make some sense of what foreign do-gooders roles might be in a country struggling with the legacy of civil war and underdevelopment.
Things apparently are considerably better in Burundi now than then, when the country was making tiny steps to overcoming a legacy of ethnic conflict that was reminescnet of that in neighboing Rwanda. But the IRIN is reports that the trappings and conveniences of civil society are still not in place.
Specifically, there is the question of identity cards. Apparently 1.5 million children have not had their births registered, which means that they can not get free health care. When they are school age, more problems were develop. Registration is supposed to be free for infants up to two weeks after birth, but costs the equivalent of $21.40 US afterwards, a sum impossibly high for most people.
However, with the aid of international NGOs campaign is underway in two rural provinces to register children who have no identity cards.
Strange to think of being without papers...