Kaleyra builds an SMS solution for Italian Red Cross in 48 hours during the Pandemic

Rarely do public healthcare systems get stressed to the extent they were during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The pandemic pushed healthcare systems across the globe to their limits, and many broke down. In some of the most severely affected countries, non-profit charity institutions had to find solutions that would lessen the burden on their networks which were not designed to handle the sudden increase in volumes. 

One of the vital aspects of decreasing this burden was to prioritize communication channels. The Italian Red Cross, while working in one of the worst affected countries during the pandemic’s peak, faced a massive surge in calls to their contact center. This case study showcases the rapid response initiated by Kaleyra to put in place a toll-free messaging system that would help with this. Callers to the Italian Red Cross send SMSs requesting medicines, information, grocery delivery, and prioritize emergency response services. 

About Italian Red Cross

Located in Rome, Italy, and part of the International Federation of Red Cross, the world’s largest humanitarian network, the Italian Red Cross works towards providing necessary relief and support to populations unable to manage food, medicine, and shelter and work on a non-profit basis. Known in Italy as Croce Rossa Italiana, or the CRI, they cover a wide range of services, including health, social services, emergencies, development of youth, and so on. 

Italian Red Cross Requirement 

Italian Red Cross needed an emergency solution to ease its communications network’s burden during the COVID-19 pandemic. They needed a way to channel callers’ flow to a secondary option such as SMS so that workers/volunteers could prioritize emergency calls. 

Key Challenges

During the first wave of the pandemic, Italy was one of the worst-hit countries. The Italian Red Cross needed to put an additional layer of communication in place because they could not handle the sudden increase in calls and requests for service. The most effective method was to give users an SMS option so that they wouldn’t need to call if it was not an emergency.

Kaleyra’s Solutions 

The Italian Red Cross trusted Kaleyra, as the top CPaaS provider in Italy, to build a solution to route incoming queries and implement it in a brief period of time. This would be a toll-free text messaging service that would be available to the Italian public. The number was set up and activated on March 12th, 2020. 

Kaleyra delivered and implemented the solutions in a record time of 48 hours. This project was commissioned and built by the Kaleyra and Red Cross teams remotely, with various stakeholders spread across the Italian country and also, from the US. 


Kaleyra set up a messaging service that the Italian population could use to send in their help requests. 

The toll-free text message number, set up by Kaleyra, served as an additional communication channel that would help in decreasing the burden on the emergency services call number of the Croce Rossa Italiana. This number was serviceable by all national telecommunications operators, and hence users could send text messages from a network of their choice, completely free. 

The requests were divided into various requirements, as follows:

  1. Service request for groceries and medicine delivery and temporary home care presence: When users found the emergency services call number busy, they could alternatively send an SMS to the toll-free text message number and request for services. These messages were then routed to the Kaleyra CPaaS system and delivered to the CRI. The CRI could then contact the sender of the SMS and start delivering orders or fulfill other requests. 
  2. Autoresponder service for requests to collaborate: This system was set up to help doctors and nurses to get in touch with the CRI quickly and without the need to travel to CRI offices. Doctors and nurses who were available for immediate action could send an SMS to the CRI via the toll-free text message number with keywords such as “immediate doctor availability”. This would allow the CRI to know how many doctors/nurses were available in a specific region, and they could direct them to the nearest area, which needs attention. 
  3. Emergency communication platform for CRI volunteers: This allowed the CRI to send out critical messages to all 160,000 volunteers, doctors, and nurses, allowing them to be prepared to face emergencies quickly.  

Once the CRI received an SMS after processing by the Kaleyra platform, it was easy to route it to the specific CRI teams, and they would get detailed information about these requests on their mobiles. This enabled the CRI to dispatch deliveries to areas according to citizens’ addresses and details, allowing faster coordination and decreasing the time to deliver. 

For critical emergencies, people could still call the helpline, requesting assistance. Previously, all calls were coming into emergency services call number, but only emergency requirements were getting routed. The new SMS system decreased the burden on the contact center support staff and helped distribute tasks to teams on the ground. Now, if the call number was busy, citizens could send an SMS, and CRI teams would contact them back once an agent is available.

This chart showcases the meteoric rise in text messages that the Italian Red Cross started receiving from March 4th onwards, once the Kaleyra messaging service was activated. The CRI received over 5000 messages in the first four days after the system went live. This clearly indicates the stress that the call number was under and how the SMS system was relieving it. 

Results of the Collaboration

Here are the statistics of this project: 

Number of SMS messages received in the first four days- 5000

Number of volunteers connected with the population- 110,000

Time to build- 48 hours

Testing and approval- 48 hours

The Italian Red Cross and its users benefited from an easy and convenient method of communication. Patrons were able to avail their services quickly and safely. The system reduced the burden on their network and allowed the Red Cross to efficiently manage their resources by concentrating on core necessities such as immediate relief to critical emergencies. 

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