One hour with the UNICEF-supported mobile team in Košice

Social and health workers drive around the streets of Košice, Slovakia. Their mission: supporting Ukrainian refugees’ inclusion at 360 degrees.

Vita enters the mobile team vehicle.
UNICEF/UNI426365/Le Lijour
18 December 2023

A click, a swing, a soft slam and the Blue Dot mobile team boards the white car that will take them to today’s mission: accompanying Damil, an eight-year-old Ukranian boy who has autism, to an appointment with his clinical psychologist.  

For refugee children’s health and education 

“When Damil first arrived in Slovakia, we tried to find him a school for children with disabilities,” says Janka, a social worker with a mobile team working for the Slovak Humanitarian Council, the NGO that operates the Blue Dot Hub in cooperation with UNICEF. “But he needs a certificate of his diagnosis, and when his family fled Ukraine, they left the papers behind. Now we must do them again.” 

Danil plays at the clinic's waiting room.
UNICEF/UNI426360/Le Lijour

Once at the clinic, Vita, a Ukrainian health worker in the mobile team, sits down with Danil and his grandmother to chat and play while his mother is interviewed by the psychologist in the next room. As this is Danil’s first visit to the clinic, they are there to make sure everything goes smoothly. 

“I’ve been a nurse for over 25 years back in Ukraine,” says Vita. “I have a lot of experience communicating with patients, which helps me to this day.” Vita conducts health consultations with Ukrainians and provides them with information, including about vaccination. At times, she accompanies families to the doctor to reassure them and make sure that nothing is lost in translation. 

Vita talks wiht Danil and his mother.
UNICEF/UNI426362/Le Lijour

Supporting families to tackle challenges 

The mobile team is a problem-solver. They support Ukrainian refugees in addressing many of their needs. The team is composed of two social workers, two health workers and two translators. The team is tasked to visit Ukrainian refugee families across Košice and sometimes in remote areas and villages in the region. They support families where they are, as well as accompanying them when they need assistance with their daily tasks. 

“When a family arrives in Slovakia, we take them to the Foreign Police office to help them acquire Temporary Protection,” says Natalia, who coordinates the team. “Then, we normally assist them in finding accommodation, opening a Slovak bank account and finding a school and pediatrician for their children.” 

Vita (left) and Natalia (right) exit the clinic where they accompanied Danil.
UNICEF/UNI426363/Le Lijour

The most complicated part, continues Natalia, is finding accommodation. “Refugees can sleep at the Košice Transit Centre only for two days, so it’s always a race against time,” she says. “It’s particularly hard for large families or families with children with disabilities, because of the additional challenges they face. In addition, we often have to support many families simultaneously,” she concludes. 

“We also help parents find job opportunities or, if they cannot work, register for cash assistance,” such as the one provided by the Government of Slovakia or UNICEF. However, she admits, registration for cash assistance is a simple process and refugees rarely need their support. 

“We are a good team, and we have chemistry, but aside from that I’m proud of our work and what we achieve,” Janka admits. “You always feel it when a person is satisfied with the results of your work," continues Vita. “I am happy to look at the smiling faces of families, it makes me happy,” she concludes. 

Vita (left) and Natalia (right) walk and talk together.
UNICEF/UNI426364/Le Lijour

The Blue Dots and mobile teams are important elements of the UNICEF-supported child protection network in Slovakia. They provide access to safe spaces, case management, mental health and psychosocial support to children and families coming fleeing the war in Ukraine. 

This work to support refugee children and families in Slovakia has been made possible with generous contributions from the people of Luxembourg through UNICEF Luxembourg as well as from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the US Government.

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