The ongoing Syrian conflict has put refugees at their highest number since 1994 – a terrible year for the people of Rwanda and Yugoslavia; this year – in time for World Refugee Day – IKEA and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) have unveiled a solar-powered home. It is designed to protect women and children living in makeshift camps.
Refugee camps are often the scene of disease and incredible violence directed mostly toward women and children. This is exacerbated by poor security and lack of lighting. This is the reality for so many people, some of whom have been living in camps for up to twelve years.
Trouble is, it takes an enormous pile of money to ensure that 45.2 million refugees in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan and Syria have adequate housing (not to mention food, clothing and access to fresh water.)
It is with this concern that the IKEA Foundation teamed up with UNHCR in 2010.
In three short years, the charity arm of the flat pack furniture company has pumped $3.2 million into an initiative to design solar-powered housing that can be mass-manufactured and distributed to refugee camps across the globe.
Soon they will put the design on the “open source” market, which will allow any interested company to purchase the homes to the UNHCR.
The tents that are currently distributed usually last no more than six months, while the new prefabricated homes will last for several years.
With the 2008 tsunami disaster still fresh in their memory, Johan Karlsson, Project Manager at IKEA’s Refugee Housing Unit, said that the company knew they needed to create a solution that would not only offer protection, but that would also have value for money.
By making the homes commercially viable, or putting a price tag on it, the group thought they could make better housing a more viable dream.
“We could clearly see the need for innovation when it came to humanitarian shelters and needed a partner who shared our vision,” said Karlsson in a recent statement.
The subsequent solar-powered shelters are expected to be ready for mass production as soon as October, 2013.