News Good News Ikea pitches in to help Syrian refugees
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Ikea pitches in to help Syrian refugees

Better Shelter
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Swedish megastore Ikea has become something of a furniture superpower thanks to its affordable, stylish products and delicious Swedish meatballs.

So what happens when you combine their forward-thinking innovation with the United Nations’ humanitarian focus?

A five-square-metre-sized solution to one of the biggest crises facing the world today – the displacement of millions of Syrian refugees.

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As part of a collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ikea has developed a ‘Better Shelter‘ designed to keep those without a home safe and sound.

The simple sanctuaries take only four to eight hours to assemble and are comprised of a foundation, roof, solar panel, windows, walls and a door.

While they’re a little more expensive than the classic refugee tent – they cost around US$1150 – they last far longer (three years) and can be disassembled and reassembled as required.

They also boast solar-powered LED lights, mobile phone chargers, mosquito nets, ventilation and a lockable door – a crucial factor in preventing the sexual assault and abuse of women and children in the camps.

An aerial view of the shelters at Karatepe transit camp, Mytilini, Lesvos, Greece. Photo: Better Shelter
An aerial view of the shelters at Karatepe transit camp, Mytilini, Lesvos, Greece. Photo: Better Shelter

In true Ikea fashion, the stylish shelters are easily assembled and highly functional, a big departure from the typical tents refugees receive, which can fall to pieces in a matter of months.

Johan Karlsson, a Swedish industrial designer who conceived the shelters, told Canada’s Globe and Mail the project started out as a solution to a foreign problem.

However, with the recent influx of refugees to European countries like Sweden, the project has become far closer to home.

“What started as a humanitarian project for people far away in distant, war-torn countries is now right on our doorstep. We are building camps in Germany and Switzerland, even in Sweden.” Mr Karlsson said.

“I could never have imagined it.”

Better Shelter housing units in Kawergosk, Iraq. Photo: Better Shelter
Better Shelter housing units in Kawergosk, Iraq. Photo: Better Shelter

Whilst Better Shelter is a step in the right direction, Mr Karlsson acknowledges that it’s only the beginning.

“Obviously the situation is complex and goes far beyond shelter,” he said.

“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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