From Germany, help to relieve the “acute suffering” of Ukrainian children

German Development Minister Svenja Schulze and Chairman of the UNICEF Committee for Germany Georg Graf Waldersee visit Blue Dot in Sighetu Marmației

Roxana Grămadă
Ministrul federal german al Dezvoltării, Svenja Schulze
UNICEF/Alex Nicodim
17 March 2022

ROMANIA, Sighetu Marmației, 14 March, 2022 - German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, visited Sighetu Marmatiei on Monday and saw how mothers and children entering Romania from Ukraine receive a network of integrated services, from legal and psychological counseling to social assistance, health services, transport, and accommodation in a single unit: the Blue Dot. 

Of the over 400,000 Ukrainian people who have crossed the border into Romania since the beginning of the war, about half are children. Over 28,000 have passed through Sighetu Marmatiei, continued their journey, or accepted support in the communities nearby. 

Minister Schulze entered the Blue Dot accompanied by Deputy Secretary-General of the Romanian Government Mircea Abrudean, President of the County Council of Maramures Ionel Bogdan, and Chairman of the UNICEF Committee for Germany Georg Graf Waldersee and followed UNICEF child protection experts, who traced the process all incoming families would follow and showed how support was being offered. She then met with two mothers and their children and asked about the hardship of fleeing their homes. 

Preşedintele Comitetului Director UNICEF Germania Georg Graf Waldersee si o familie de refugiati din Ucraina
UNICEF/Alex Nicodim
© UNICEF in Romania / Alex Nicodim Svitlana and her sons Dmytro (aged 8) and Kyrylo (aged 6) crossed the Ukrainian border into Romania at Sighetu Marmatiei. They don’t have destination yet. Waiting in the Blue Dot to be taken to their offered accommodation, they met with the Chairman of the UNICEF Committee for Germany Georg Graf Waldersee.

“What truly impressed me today was the strength of the women and the children I was able to talk to. These children have seen and experienced terrible things and UNICEF's Blue Dot centers offer an important safe space and first point of contact,” said Schulze who also announced an emergency program of 38.5M EUR from the German Government.  

“It is important to strengthen UNICEF as our partner,” added the minister, who declared 2M EUR will go to UNICEF. The funds will support a point of contact in Sighetu Marmatiei, to help children reunite with their families and help prevent trafficking and abuse. 

Chairman of the UNICEF Committee for Germany Georg Graf Waldersee, who also sat down with two Ukrainian mothers and their children, said the visit was “heartbreaking and impressive.”  

“Both of them had been between five and six days on the march, one under heavy fire. Although they came from different areas in Ukraine, different personal backgrounds, it was very clear that they had no idea about the future. The children experienced things which should not happen to any child in the world. They showed me their drawings from the few hours they spent in the Blue Dot and what I saw were guns, tanks, and other military material.” 

While touring the refugee camp set up on the stadium in Sighetu Marmatiei, Chairman Waldersee also said he was “touched by the professionalism of our colleagues in UNICEF” and thought it “our responsibility to show those who support UNICEF what we do with the donations, and that they realize their money is well invested. We are overwhelmed in Germany about the level of support German men and women are granting to UNICEF and other organizations these days.” 

Deputy Secretary-General of the Romanian Government Mircea Abrudean was also present for the day and saw “an extraordinary coordination of the government, local authorities, civil society, business environment, church and private individuals willing to help” and commended the Blue Dot as an example that should be replicated.  

Abrudean explained Romania has made significant efforts to provide immediate relief and support for the refugees of Ukraine, with over 25M EUR spent and expected to increase. 

The Blue Dot in Sighetu Marmatiei was the first in Romania, developed in close partnership with the Ministry of Family and Youth through The General Directorate for Child Protection, the County of Maramures and many other regional and local authorities and NGOs. 

A second one was opened in Siret, northern Romania, at another important border crossing point from Ukraine. 

The vast majority of children and families continue their road to other European countries. It must now be a priority to make sure no child is left behind or lost crossing the border or beyond, exposing them to further danger, trafficking, and abuse. The registration system in the Blue Dot is essential to keeping them safe. 

“This is a child refugee crisis,” said UNICEF in Romania Representative Pieter Bult, who explained why we need a network of Blue Dots around the country, not only at the border crossings.  

The idea is to connect the dots, to make sure that every Blue Dot communicates with the other Blue Dots through a digital registration system. The Blue Dot is a partnership first and foremost. Our support is to catalyze all the organizations around these blue dots.”  

“Together with UNICEF we managed to put up that Blue Dot tent, an integrated management of the refugees’ inflow and I am very happy they have brought along their know-how gathered during other conflict situations and they are using it here in Maramures as we needed their coordination and support,” said President of the County Council of Maramures Ionel Bogdan. 

The team offering them support through the Blue Dot unites authorities and volunteers from The County Council of Maramures, The Prefecture of Maramures, The General Directorate for Child Protection, The City of Sighetul Marmatiei, at least 210 volunteers from over 15 nongovernmental organizations, Red Cross, Maltez, The Orthodox Church of Romania, The Orthodox Diocese of Maramures, The Ukrainian Diocese, The Ukrainian Deanery, neo protestant churches and the Jewish community in Romania.