Ikea Is Assembling "Better Shelter" For Syrian Refugees

Ikea has applied its innovation to a design problem far more pressing than selling stylish furniture at affordable prices. The Ikea Foundation's Better Shelter program hopes to supply more livable temporary housing for million of refugees from Syria and around the world. They're now being assembled for some Syrian refugees who've arrived in Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland, Yahoo News reports.

Its Better Shelter temporary homes are 57 square feet, which offer twice as much floor space as the typical cotton canvas tents that populate most refugee camps. The steel-framed structures also feature "windows, mosquito nets, lights, ventilation, and a lockable door to keep women and children safe from sexual violence, a common problem in many refugee camps," Yahoo News reports. And though they are costlier than tents, they last six times longer.

In April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ordered 10,000 Better Shelters. As part of the Swedish company's ongoing attempt to provide solar lamps for displaced families in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Ikea has donated more than $166 million to the refugee agency.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes, including 19.5 million refugees, by the end of 2014. By September 2015, Amnesty International reported more than 4 million Syrians had fled their country.

But when it comes to assisting displaced families for the long-term, stable resettlement outside of refugee camps requires far more than better shelter. As Ikea industrial designer Johan Karlsson told The Globe and Mail, “The average stay in an UNHCR refugee camp is 17 years."

Unfortunately, building new lives from war-torn conditions don't come with clearcut instructions, as Karlsson also noted. "Obviously the situation is complex and goes far beyond shelter," he told the Canadian newspaper. "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.”
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