A group of Venezuelans walking on the highway a few kilometers from Bogota, Colombia. Photo Credit: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Corporate partnership: NRC and Twilio offer lifeline to displaced during pandemic

Published 20. Jan 2021
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has teamed up with Twilio, the leading cloud communications platform, to improve communication and information access for thousands of refugees and displaced people throughout the pandemic.

“The pandemic has tested us all, not least the way we communicate with and assist the world´s most vulnerable. NRC delivers assistance to people displaced by conflict in some of the hardest to reach communities and our goal was to ensure they were better served during this crisis. NRC is now able to reach more people faster and with greater efficiency through the digital transformation of humanitarian services. We are delighted that working with Twilio provides NRC with the tools to transform aid so that we can connect with people rapidly in a way that is safe and successful,” said Paul Cornu, Emergency Response Adviser for NRC.

Together, NRC and Twilio built a number of contact centres in conflict-ridden countries and offered a phone-survey technology service to find out the impact of Covid-19 on refugees and displaced people.

NRC’s Digital Community Hub uses Twilio's services in countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Myanmar and Libya, to expand the reach of humanitarian response beyond in-person contact, working alongside consulting partner Zing. The new contact centres have enabled NRC to reestablish communication and assistance services to displaced people impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. 

A contact centre in Libya to support refugees and asylum seekers many of whom face risk of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and serious harm, was initially set up to manage 400 calls a week but demand for the service was so great, it received over 20,000 calls during its first two weeks in operation. A contact centre in Colombia has managed over 8,500 calls since it opened last July and will also roll out social, legal, and educational services for people in Colombia and in neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela. 

Furthermore, NRC was able to complete a survey to understand the impact of the pandemic on displaced people’s livelihoods. The phone-based survey, which allowed respondents in eight countries to select their responses using their keypad, highlighted that 77 per cent had lost a job or income, and 30 per cent said that they had to borrow more money now than before the pandemic. The survey findings featured in a global report, contributed to enhanced humanitarian assistance and helped secure additional funding.

Erin Reilly, Chief Social Impact Officer at Twilio, added: “Being able to work with NRC to deliver vital assistance, especially during Covid-19, highlights the vital role that social impact programmes play and why this is such an important area for Twilio. The work that NRC has done to transform refugee crisis lines puts them at the forefront of the digital transformation of humanitarian services and brings help and hope to those forced to flee.”