How to Use QR Codes for Humanitarian Efforts

As the Russian military invasion of Ukraine grows, so too do the casualties to civilians, the damage to civilian infrastructures, and large-scale displacements. In the face of this growing humanitarian crisis, several private and public organizations have stepped up to dispense emergency assistance and aid. In order to streamline these efforts, many are using tech and digital solutions to collect donations, organize shelters, and stay up to date with the latest information. It is vital to offer the proper channels to connect people from offline points of contact to digital resources instantly. This is why Bitly is providing Ukrainian users with free access to generate QR Codes and round-the-clock assistance to ensure QR Codes are being used to provide verified news and information. Below is a guide on how QR Codes can help boost humanitarian efforts across the board, and bring further attention and support for the people of Ukraine, those fleeing this conflict, and the inhumanity of their situation.

Bitly: supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine

The Bitly team will be donating to Ukrainian humanitarian aid efforts to help provide food and basic necessities to those in need. Furthermore, in order to preserve clear and informed communication pathways, the Bitly team is committed to proactively fight the spread of misinformation on its QR Code platforms. 

Bitly is also offering free QR Codes for Ukrainian citizens and to organizations or teams using them to allocate humanitarian aid for the war in Ukraine. If you want to read more about Bitly’s stance regarding the Ukraine humanitarian crisis, click here

Different ways to use QR Codes for humanitarian efforts

The following blog aims to guide people on how to use QR Code tech to organize and expand the reach of donation initiatives and humanitarian services. 

vCard QR Code on identification cards at borders

This QR Code type placed on identification cards allows you to easily share relevant, up-to-date contact information with those who are fleeing their homes. You can share details like information hubs where they can find humanitarian assistance, legal and translation services. As a Dynamic QR Code, you can update the contact details to reflect day-to-day changes in resource availability. This also allows you to share verified information so people in need have continued access to basic essential services. 

An example of a vCard Code on an identification card providing contact details.
An example of a vCard Code on an identification card.

Share the contact information of registered legal aid specialists from different jurisdictions offering free legal advice for asylum seekers. 

Information hubs

Use the QR Code to give refugees arriving in different countries and cities verified contact information of hubs providing assistance such as prescription medication, food, and shelter.


As people are displaced from their home countries, it’s important to retain a clear funnel of communication. As translators volunteer to help refugees communicate with authorities and essential service staff, you can help share their contact details instantly and keep it up to date with the vCard QR Code on identification cards handed at the border.

Collection points for donations

Different private organizations and businesses in cities across several countries are volunteering to collect and transport non-perishable goods, medicine, and sanitary products to shelter points. If your business or organization is participating and needs financial aid to cover transportation costs and vehicle rental fees, you can place a Dynamic URL QR Code on your shop window that directs customers and passersby to a verified payment landing page. Unlike cash collection, QR Code payment can occur via mobile at any time, day or night, through the user alone, which is less risky and requires less time and effort.

A QR Code on a sign collecting donations to cover transportation costs for humanitarian aid.
A QR Code on a sign collecting donations to cover transportation costs for humanitarian aid.

Optimize your queue systems

The QR Code Queue System can help keep medical services, transportation services, and shelter waiting lists organized. Once people scan this QR Code type, it sends an SMS to your organization’s phone number and ”registers” them as next in line in a virtual queue. When it’s their turn, they will receive a text to claim their place. 

To create a virtual queue system, simply select the SMS QR Code, enter the target phone number you wish to use to send the SMS. Next, add a pre-populated text message where your customers can fill in the required information; this could be their full name and number of guests.

This means people no longer have to queue physically and will receive a call or SMS whenever they’re next, which reduces crowded waiting areas and gives them the opportunity to start queuing ahead of time.

Provide accessible mental health support to families and children

Many charities and organizations, like Voices of Children, have assembled materials to provide psychological and psychosocial support to children affected by the armed conflict. 

With different QR Code solution pages like the PDF QR Code, Image Gallery QR Code, or Video QR Code, you can bring art therapy and video storytelling directly to those affected via print materials like brochures, pamphlets, or posters at any contact point. Each QR Code landing page comes equipped with a customizable button you can turn into a link to redirect people to a verified web page where they can connect to an online psychologist and individual help for families.

A QR Code at a library providing materials for mental health support for children.
A QR Code at a library providing materials for mental health support.

Boost the voices of those facing this humanitarian crisis

Help shed light on what is happening with the war in Ukraine by widening the platform and sharing people’s stories offline and online. Several people, like Natalia Vlasenko, an Odessa tour guide and blogger, have decided to stay and share how the war is impacting their lives. Other Ukrainians like Khrysty Ana, are using their Instagram stories to continuously share live updates on what is happening in Ukraine. Though their resources are being shared through online channels, QR Codes can help reach people who have limited knowledge of social media or digital news platforms. 

The Social Media QR Code allows you to share multiple social media channels on one landing page. Printed on stickers and flyers distributed across cities, they can help amplify real-life news of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine on offline platforms, and connect people to verified news. 

Use QR Codes on TV to support nonprofits

As people watch the news unfold, you can use the Dynamic URL QR Code on TV to help connect them to organizations and nonprofits that are collecting donations to provide relief and support. 

A QR Code on TV offering viewers the opportunity to help through donation.
A QR Code on TV offering viewers the opportunity to help through donation.

QR Code best practices you should keep in mind

Here are a few tips to ensure your QR Code works properly. If you need more information on how QR Codes work, you can access our Help Center anytime.

Minimum size

QR Codes should be printed in the appropriate size according to your print medium and ideal scanning distance. We recommend a minimum size of 2 x 2 cm (.8 x .8 in) for Dynamic Codes and 3 x 3 cm (1.2 x 1.2 in) for Static Codes.

Use high contrast

QR Codes do not necessarily need to be black and white. However, always make sure you pick colors for your background and foreground that are distinctly in contrast with each other. QR Codes that are too monochromatic may interfere with scanning.

Test, test, test

It is important to always test the effectiveness of your QR Code using different mobile devices, operating systems, and scanning apps before distribution. This ensures the functionality of your QR Code and maximizes its effectiveness. 

While QR Codes have a reputation as popular marketing tools, they can also be used as an innovative solution to increase awareness and knowledge for humanitarian causes. As tech tools that bridge the gap between offline and online points of contact, QR Codes allow for a broader audience reach and are a catalyst for connection between different information channels and communication platforms.

Georgia Zouganeli

Georgia Zouganeli is a content writer at Bitly. She was born in Florida, the sunshine state, but raised in France, and is now based in Münster, Germany. She specializes in creative and SEO writing, and in her free time, she is an avid climber, training weekly at her local bouldering gym and traveling to Fontainebleau whenever possible. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn!

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