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article imageIkea developing new refugee housing

By Martin Laine     Jun 26, 2013 in World
Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea announced this week it is developing housing designed for refugee camps modeled after its economical flat-packed products such as bookcases.
These pre-fabricated refugee shelters would mark the first significant improvement over generations of the ubiquitous white canvas tents that spring up after natural disasters and in war zones. Meant only as temporary shelters, the tents are hot in summer and cold in winter, and begin to deteriorate after six months. For the millions of people now living in refugee camps worldwide, the average stay is now 12 years.
“Our goal is to revolutionize the refugee tent or at least improve it,” said Johan Karlsson of the Ikea Foundation’s Refugee Housing Unit, according to an article in The Local. “Like an Ikea bookshelf, it is easy to transport and easy to set up in the field.”
According to its website, the Ikea Foundation has been funding the research, and has been working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Innovation and other nonprofit agencies to design and develop the new housing.
An article in the Wall Street Journal, describes the structures as tall enough to stand up in, insulated, and equipped with solar panels that will provide enough electricity for lights. WSJ reports that the IKEA Foundation has spent $4.5 million on the project so far.
The shelters are described as “a cross between a massive garden shed and a canvas party tent.” The first 50 of these shelters will be tested over the coming months in camps in Ethiopia and Lebanon.
Harriet Rudd, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Refugee Council praised the foundations efforts.
“It is very important that businesses contribute,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Many of today’s humanitarian crises are underfunded.”
More about Ikea, Refugee camps, Unhcr
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