As you might imagine, refugee camps are not exactly the nicest places to live. Aside from being filled with the memories of violence, war, and disaster, they”re also temporary, often flimsy shelters that can”t stand up to the elements and lack a lot of basic amenities.
Yet with the ongoing conflict in Syria (now entering its fifth year), the number of people living in refugee camps has drastically increased to 4 million–and it”s still growing. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls the Syrian refugee crisis the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” So, what can we do to help?
Swedish furniture company IKEA stepped up to the challenge of combating the dangers of unstable shelters. They brought their trademark ease-of-assembly to a 188-square-foot shelter called the Better Shelter. This structure can house five people and comes with a built-in solar panel that can power a light and a cell phone charger, allowing refugees to stay in contact and updated. It”s also made with a plastic foam that insulates better than a canvas tent.
The Better Shelter ships flat, and is then assembled on-site.
The Better Shelter has been in the works for years and is finally ready for actual use in refugee camps. The UNHCR has already ordered 10,000 units.
The shelters take around four hours to assemble, and each one is designed to last three years, or six times longer than conventional refugee shelters.
IKEA and the UNHCR hope that the Better Shelter will not only keep fleeing families safe, but also provide them with a sense of dignity. In the end, the new shelters will allow them to live more comfortably and with more stability. You can learn more about the Better Shelter and other programs for displaced people, especially children, on the IKEA Foundation”s website.