UNICEF support in Romania for refugee children, women and families coming from Ukraine

UNICEF is supporting the Romanian Government, local authorities, UN agencies and non-government organizations to monitor the inflow of Ukrainian refugees.

Ukrainian child
09 March 2022

Updated October 2022

Due to the conflict in Ukraine, more than 6.6 million individuals from Ukraine were recorded across Europe, most taken refuge into neighbouring countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. More than 80% of refugees are women and children. This refugee crisis is, in terms of speed and scale, unprecedented since the Second World War, and is showing no signs of slowing down. 

Romania started to receive refugees as early as February 24, 2022. Up to now, over 1.6 million Ukrainians have arrived in Romania, out of which approximately 83,748 were still in the country. About 74,000 refugees from Ukraine received temporary protection. In recent weeks, there is a trend of Ukrainians crossing the border back into Ukraine – with total number of about 1,091,000 to date. 

A Ukrainian child has become a refugee almost every single second since the start of the war. The estimates are that 33% of Ukrainian refugees in Romania are children. In some cases, children are separated from their parents/guardians before commencing the trip to/through Romania, travelling in groups with distant relatives or unrelated adults, as their family members returned to Ukraine after dropping them off. Since 24 February, around 4,620 unaccompanied children arrived in Romania, out of which 202 are now in the state protection system. All these refugee children are not adoptable, as they are Ukrainian citizens, they are taken care by the Romanian state at the request of the Ukrainian Government and they will be returned into their home country when the situation will be safe.  

UNICEF, along with other International agencies is part of the response task force led by the Romanian Government coordinating the National refugee response. UNICEF’s focus is three-fold: (i) care and protection of vulnerable children and families, (ii) ensuring children, adolescents and women have equal access to lifesaving health services, and (iii) education for all school-aged children by supporting their integration into the national system. 

Given the increase in cross-border movements, UNICEF is working together with the Romanian Government, national and local authorities, UNHCR and other UN agencies, along with non-government organizations to provide protection, assistance through direct services and referral to enhanced national/local services and community-based interventions, including through establishment and roll-out of Blue Dots - Children and Family Support Hubs.  

In the protection sector, UNICEF's response in collaboration with the Ministry of Family, Youth and Equal Opportunities through the National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights and Adoption, local General Directions of Social Assistance and Child Protection (DGASPC), local municipalities, UNHCR, other relevant partners in strategic areas and local NGOs focuses on establishing and operationalizing Blue Dots at the border crossings and along anticipated routes of major migration flows. These Hubs are dedicated refugee children and family support centers and represent an integrated model focusing on providing support for the most immediate needs of children and women. The Blue Dots build on the government’s national protection system and are linked to the national and local referral pathways and services.  

The Blue Dots include child-friendly spaces offering integrated services including family reunification and restoring family links, information and counselling desks, registration of the most vulnerable, spaces dedicated to mothers and babies/ young children, psychological therapy and first aid on hygiene, health and nutrition, as well as basic legal advice, referral services for cases of violence or health conditions, etc. Blankets, warm clothes, sanitary kits, toys, as well as hygiene products and baby food are available in the Blue Dots. 

In the 8 months since the beginning of the war, over 170.000 children and women had access to UNICEF-supported safe spaces, protection and support hubs, including Blue Dots functioning in Romania.


Services provided to refugee children and their families:   

  1. Identification and referral of children at risk: Provide in-depth child protection assessment to identify needs for a) immediate referral to statutory child protection structures/services (children at risk of separation, unaccompanied or separated children) or b) on-site support/ assistance to those in need. When specific vulnerabilities or risks/concerns are detected, children and families are referred to the social worker of the Blue Dot for further assessment; to be complemented by ‘digital blue dots’ support. 

  1. Legal aid and counselling: Provide these services to children and families, as well as others with specific needs, on registration, documentation, birth registration, asylum, family reunification and other procedures. 

  1. Information and advice desks: Inform on available services. Provision of Wi-Fi connectivity and charging stations. Provide information boards, screens for video screening, or tablets. 

  1. Psychosocial support: Ensure that mothers and children in distress have access to psychological first aid and focused support provided by psychologists. Families can have access to inclusive activities that support recovery, resilience and psychological well-being of children and their parents. 

  1. Mother and Child friendly spaces: Ensure children of all ages can have access to child-friendly spaces, allowing rest and play, separate spaces and specific interventions for adolescent girls and boys. Access to group activities for child well-being. Provide mothers with access to dedicated mother and baby/toddler spaces, for breastfeeding, baby care and hygiene, access to safe drinking water for formula etc. 

As one of the leading actors in the response, UNICEF pays particular attention to engaging with the affected people to ensure their opinions and voices are heard and taken into account in planning and implementation of the activities to enhance the relevance, timeliness, effectiveness and efficiency of the response. To this end, UNICEF and UNHCR, in collaboration with other partners, are establishing a feedback mechanism to enhance communication with the affected population and ensure that refugees are at the center of the response. The feedback mechanism will also contribute to (i) trend analysis and identification of gaps in services; (ii) assist in assessing the performance of humanitarian actors; (iii) strengthening resilience of the people affected, including children and adolescents, and enable the most vulnerable to adopt and sustain positive change in their own lives and of their community.  

Health and nutrition sector: the emphasis is on the access to essential health and nutrition services, including vaccination against polio, measles, and COVID-19 for the refugees to cater for their most immediate needs, especially those for people and children with disabilities. This is being done through provision of life-saving medicines, vaccines, supplies, and equipment, building capacity of frontline health workers to provide essential maternal, newborn and child health services, integrating mental health and psychosocial services into public health services targeting refugees. In addition, mother-baby spaces are being established to provide safe spaces for breastfeeding and childcare in Blue Dots as well as transit and placement centers. 

The education sector targets all school-aged children fleeing from Ukraine through (i) establishing safe learning spaces; (ii) provision of education kits/supplies (including relevant and cost-effective teaching materials, learning support materials, IT equipment etc.) in formal and non-formal settings (transit centers etc.); and (iii) supporting integration of the refugee children into the national education system. To this end, UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education to implement accelerated Romanian language acquisition programmes/classes and scale up learning services in Ukrainian language. 

In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the first three Blue Dots are operational at Sighetu Marmației, Siret, Isaccea, Albita and Husi border crossings to provide support and continuity of services to children and women, especially the most vulnerable such as unaccompanied minors, children with disabilities and children from Residential Centres. Other Blue Dots are available in Bucharest and Brasov.

UNICEF is working with Government, county and local authorities and NGO’s partners to establish Blue Dots at all border crossings with Ukraine and at other locations within Romania, following the flow of children affected by the war. 

The purpose is to “connect the (Blue) dots” to ensure all refugee children are monitored, traced, protected, will arrive safely at their destination, and will access the needed services in order to have their rights protected.