Today, the best shelter we can usually offer the world’s tens of millions of refugees is a tent.
So the folks who make your bookcase (and bed, and table) have designed a cheap, solar-powered hut that only takes four hours to assemble but offers refugees more protection and privacy.
What do you do when a flash mob of a million homeless refugees shows up to your third world country from the neighboring third world country? Make them sleep on the hot (or cold) ground and wait for the United Nations to show up with crappy tents, of course.
Until next month, that is, when you’ll be able to put them up in solar-powered huts on the cheap. In July, IKEA Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) will roll out one of the major innovations for war-torn homeless since the canvas tent: cheap, flat-packed, build-it-yourself homes with electricity-generating roofs.
More than 43 million people–globally–live as refugees or “internally displaced” (refugees within their own countries), having fled home due to “a well-founded fear of persecution” of race, religion, nationality, or socio-political membership. Right now, 3.5 million of them live in UN-provided tents, says Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “They offer little comfort, dignity, or security,” he continues. “Further, the existing tents are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. They have no electricity or lighting, limiting refugee families’ ability to lead a normal life.”
Eighty percent of refugees are women and children, and 80% of these end up in undeveloped countries. Many remain in limbo for more than a decade at a time, waiting for tension to cool down in their home countries and struggling to find work in new territory. (Imagine Tom Hanks in that one movie where he’s stuck in the airport, only with dirt floor, no air conditioning, and multiplied by 3,500,000 people.)
Up to this point, the best elemental protection relief workers could often provide refugees have been cheap, canvas UN tents that start to disintegrate after about six months.
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