IKEA Works With UN to Provide 10,000 Temporary Homes for Syrian Refugees


Although Ben Carson might have us believe otherwise, many refugees living in camps around the world are struggling to survive.

IKEA’s humanitarian arm, Ikea Foundation, has designed a fleet of smart homes to help serve the nearly 60 million people worldwide who have been forced from their homes, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Unlike the flimsy tents that generally populate hellish temporary cities like Zaatari, Jordan, the Better Shelter has a steel frame, doors that lock (vital for protecting women and children from sexual assault), ventilation, windows, and 6-foot roofs topped with solar panels.

Like most IKEA wares, the homes require assembly, and they cost about three times as much as a UNHCR tent—but they last 3 years, 6 times longer than the average tent. The UNHCR has ordered 10,000 of the temporary homes for refugees across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East; you can also donate a shelter here.

Ikea isn’t alone in constructing smarter homes in the name of disaster relief; Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is renowned for using cheap objects like cardboard to build temporary refuges around the world.

And as Slate points out, this is just one of many privately funded innovations aimed at making life easier for refugees:

In Turkey, refugees use debit cards provided by the World Food Program to shop in stores rather than waiting for food packages. In Jordan, refugees get texts from UNHCR when aid money is deposited and then use an iris scanner to withdraw cash at an ATM. Facebook just announced it will bring the Internet to camps around the world.

None of which meaningfully address the fact that these camps are only growing, that the average length of protracted refugee situations like these is 17 years, that a significant and increasing portion of the earth’s population is permanently displaced and without educational opportunities, upward mobility, sometimes even food.

Johan Karlsson, the shelter’s designer, seems cognizant of the fact that making life more bearable in refugee camps is not a longterm solution. Despite this, it’s still important work. Karlsson told Canada’s Globe and Mail: “Obviously the situation is complex and goes far beyond shelter. This is just a tiny part of humanitarian aid, but it’s an important one when it comes to allowing displaced people to live with dignity.”

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Better Shelter.

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