As the United States pulled out of Afghanistan in late August of 2021, both current and former CARE Afghanistan employees had urgent questions about filing P2 applications to establish refugee status for themselves and their families. The team at CARE HQ was having trouble keeping up with the volume of questions. Employees were emailing their questions to an email address set up specifically to field these questions but the inbox quickly became overwhelmed and CARE needed a way to respond in real time to allay staff fears.
Because WhatsApp is a widely used in Afghanistan, CARE believed that a WhatsApp chatbot could be used to answer frequently asked questions in real-time so that current and former CARE Afghanistan staff members could get answers to their urgent questions much more rapidly. CARE worked with the team at WhatsApp and Turn.io to quickly design a chatbot that could respond to a high volume of requests and deliver answers in real time.
As soon as the chatbot was set up (in 4 days!) CARE added information about the WhatsApp chatbot to our email auto-responder. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and Afghanistan, the chatbot enabled current and former CARE staff in Afghanistan to get answers to their questions even when colleagues in the U.S. were offline.
CARE’s Kabul-based team works on the organization’s three programs – women’s & girls’ empowerment, enhanced resilience and humanitarian action – and, only days after launching, 84.4% of the traffic to CARE’s chat service was coming from the Afghanistan team members.
Many staff teams across CARE’s 100 country offices use WhatsApp to manage their work-related communication, business relationships and, in some cases, as a solution to program challenges – like delivering curriculum to girls during the pandemic or helping women’s savings groups to communicate and organize together in Tanzania. These pockets of digital innovation, coupled with the CARE Afghanistan example of how WhatsApp can contribute to humanitarian crises management have shifted CARE’s thinking around the tool’s capability going forward.