Refugee twins among the first to receive birth certificates in Tanzania

A step in the right direction as Tanzania issues birth certificates to refugee children under the age of five.

Zeomary sits with her twin daughters at the registration centre in Nduta camp, Tanzania.
© UNHCR/Maimuna Mtengela

As Zeomary Rudashi rushes towards the registration centre in Tanzania’s Nduta refugee camp, her excitement is palpable. Today is a special day and not even the oppressive heat of the sun can dull her mood.


She leans forward to balance the weight of one of her twins, tied snugly on her back and urges on her seven-year-old daughter, who is carrying the other baby.

“Today is a great day for Belyce and Jaqueline who are only three weeks old,” she says with a broad smile as she joins the queue. “They will get birth certificates. I feel like they belong somewhere.”

Zeomary, a Burundian refugee, is a mother of seven and has been living in Nduta camp for the past five years. She fled Burundi’s political upheaval in 2015, finding refuge in Tanzania. Since she left all the family’s belongings and documents behind, she often worries that her children may not be recognised as Burundians and risk becoming stateless.

“Today is a great day for Belyce and Jaqueline. I feel like they belong somewhere.”

But thanks to a birth registration exercise, led by Tanzania’s Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), the Ministry of Home Affairs, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Norwegian Refugee Council and other stakeholders, Zumary’s three children who were born in Tanzania will receive legal documentation, together with some 13,500 other refugee children under five years.

  • Zeomary (right) waits as staff process birth certificates for her children at a registration centre in Nduta camp, Tanzania.
    Zeomary (right) waits as staff process birth certificates for her children at a registration centre in Nduta camp, Tanzania.  © UNHCR/Maimuna Mtengela
  • Zeomary poses with her children at the registration centre in Nduta camp, Tanzania.
    Zeomary poses with her children at the registration centre in Nduta camp, Tanzania. © UNHCR/Maimuna Mtengela
  • UNHCR staff go over birth registration and certification documents in Nduta refugee camp, Tanzania.
    UNHCR staff go over birth registration and certification documents in Nduta refugee camp, Tanzania.  © UNHCR/Maimuna Mtengela

This is the first time that such an excercise includes refugee children like Zumary’s.

UNHCR is this month marking the sixth anniversary of the #IBelong Campaign, which aims to end statelessness by 2024. World leaders are urged to include and protect stateless populations and make bold and swift moves to eradicate statelessness.

Antonio Jose Canhandula, UNHCR’s Representative in Tanzania, has applauded the Tanzania Government’s move to include refugees in the initiative.

“The right to a name, identity and registration at birth is a right for all children,” he said. “This positive development will confer important legal protections on them.”

He added that while the lack of birth registration itself does not make children stateless, its absence can hamper the ability of people to prove their descent and place of birth, which are the two main elements to establish an entitlement to the nationality of any State.

The registration exercise, which took place in Nduta camp as a pilot, will soon be rolled out in Mtendeli and Nyarugusu camps. In total, some 55,000 children who lack official birth certificates will benefit.

“My lucky twins have certainly come with blessings for the community.”

Zeomary heard about the exercise from a community leader who had visited her soon after her twins were born.

“I asked her if my twins are eligible and she said yes. I stood up and danced with joy! My lucky twins have certainly come with blessings for the community,” she says, laughing.

The morning has advanced and the day has become hotter. Belyce and Jaqueline have already been breastfed twice and are sound asleep. With only one other family standing ahead of them in the queue, Zeomary’s excitement has intensified.

“I can’t wait to show my husband the documents,” she beams.