For a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who is trying to navigate the legal path to resettlement, it can be difficult to find answers—and overstretched humanitarian organizations can take as long as three months to respond to an email when the demand for help is highest. A new chatbot called Mona, designed for Facebook Messenger and Telegram can help more quickly.
When cofounder Peter Wasserman took a field visit to Greece, he met a refugee who told him that he had contacted 38 NGOs in Turkey—with no response—before contacting a smuggler, who responded within minutes. This highlights the massive hurdle refugees face; without reliable information, how can a refugee make the important decisions that might shape their lives forever?
Thus, a startup named Mahrub created Mona, the fast-working chatbot that helps refugees find out whether or not they are eligible for resettlement. The chatbot asks specific questions to the refugees to understand their situation, and can also answer questions that refugees might have. In a pilot, Mona has proven a useful tool for helping refugees navigate the path to resettlement.
However, because not everyone who uses the chatbot is eligible for resettlement, Mahrub is starting to work with other partners to add more information to the program. Of the roughly 200,000 Syrian children who have been born in Lebanon, for example, the majority don’t have birth certificates.
The chatbot will eventually be able to help them navigate that complex registration process. The team also plans to help connect refugees with cash assistance, work permits where possible, and jobs.
This story was one of the best in 2019. That’s why we’re happy to include it in our “12 Days of Optimism” as we get ready to welcome 2020!