International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Helping every donation go further

IFRC uses Twilio Messaging and Flex to efficiently help those displaced by the Ukraine conflict, filling the gap between rising needs and stagnant funding

Hero - Vertical Image - IFRC Flex

Across Ukraine, Twilio's social impact customers:

55 million

messages sent to register for assistance

5 million

people who were affected by the conflict were reached

When every dollar needs to do more

The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, with over 15 million volunteers working across 191 countries. It is the umbrella organization behind National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies such as the American Red Cross, and its mission is to support each National Society in responding to disasters and crises, facilitating assistance to the people affected, and helping them recover and live safe, dignified lives.

The need for humanitarian assistance is growing at a rate that far outstrips the global funding available to help deliver it. In 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, and yet humanitarian funding has failed to grow for the last two years. The conflict in Ukraine has further exacerbated this shortfall.

According to estimates from the United Nations, the conflict has displaced over 8 million people, overwhelming humanitarian organizations in nearby countries and further stretching the resources available to them.

To respond, the IFRC needed an innovative way to deliver assistance quickly and efficiently to those who needed it. Enter 510, the Data & Digital initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross that is responsible for using data and digital technology to support aid workers and decision makers with helping people affected before, during, and after a disaster or crisis. The digital transformation team immediately thought beyond traditional, in-person channels and explored the digital delivery of cash and voucher aid.

"Humanitarian needs are growing faster than ever, yet the amount of humanitarian aid has flatlined for the last two years. In these circumstances, we need to push to get more value from every dollar that's donated, and Twilio enables us to do that at scale"

Juriaan Lahr Director, Digital Transformation, IFRC

Cash and voucher assistance, delivered digitally, at scale

The IFRC has provided cash and voucher assistance to people affected by disaster or conflict for many years now. Cash and voucher assistance is a form of humanitarian aid that delivers financial support directly to those affected so that individuals may determine their own path to recovery. With Twilio, the IFRC can now offer this choice of aid to more people, and with greater personalization than would be possible using traditional methods. Distributing cash and voucher assistance can be a complex business involving many stakeholders and requiring the IFRC to confirm the identity of displaced people at scale. Twilio worked with the IFRC to integrate a digital registration system through SMS and WhatsApp messages.

Once people have registered, the IFRC is able to quickly assess their needs and work with its payment processing vendor, RedRose, to get cash into the hands of those who need it most urgently. RedRose then uses Twilio’s SMS messaging and WhatsApp tools to provide updates to those who have requested assistance to close the loop on when and where support will be provided.

To supplement the digital registration process, the Hungarian Red Cross implemented Twilo Flex to create a helpdesk that could manage the influx of questions related to cash vouchers. Leveraging Flex's customizable front-end ticketing system and toll-free numbers, this system streamlines the provision of aid in three different languages through relevant channels such as Viber. Impacted people can call to leave a message, after which the IFRC responds within 24 hours or on the next working day, establishing a direct, personalized line of communication to address their needs. In the four months since its launch in October 2022, the virtual helpdesk’s three agents have dealt with over 2,300 cases. 

Coordinating cash and voucher assistance via Twilio has enabled the IFRC to deliver a response that can match up to the scale of the humanitarian crisis in and around Ukraine. Across Ukraine, Twilio’s customers have been able to reach 5 million individuals affected by the conflict and send more than 55 million messages to register for assistance.

Turning immediate aid into ongoing support

Making contact with millions of affected people has opened the door to crucial cash and voucher assistance. However, both the IFRC and Twilio recognize that it can enable other important forms of support as well, turning a one-off contact into an ongoing conversation and maximizing the value of the donations that make it possible.

Twilio Flex enables National Societies to build on their success distributing cash and voucher assistance and enables people to use the same communication channel to ask other questions and access other forms of support. One example of this type of support is the Netherlands Red Cross’ helpdesk, called Redline, which provides a comprehensive suite of services to undocumented migrants living in the Netherlands, including crucial information about local hospitals and shelters.

Launched five months ago, Redline serves as a bridge for undocumented individuals hesitant to engage with government entities, offering anonymous assistance via a WhatsApp helpdesk powered by Twilio Flex, and providing a secure platform for those in need via accessible channels. 

Solutions like this scale the support that the Red Cross Red Crescent network can provide, through the most accessible channels for each country. Looking forward, the IFRC plans to continue leveraging the power of Twilio Flex to offer personalized aid. What first begins with a code to collect cash can become a channel for ongoing two-way conversation that supports people to take back control of their lives.