• Refugee feedback inspires flat-pack homes

    Imogen Mathers


There are more people displaced across the world and in need of shelter and support than at any point since records began, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported in June. At the end of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced reached 59.5 million and the average length of displacement for refugees is nearly 20 years. With no end in sight for conflicts such as the war in Syria — almost a quarter of the world’s refugees are Syrian — the need for support, funding and care for those caught up in war and disasters has never been more urgent.

These crises are unfolding against a climate of tightening aid budgets: the past few months have seen UN agencies slash funding for humanitarian programmes. This means innovation in humanitarian relief is increasingly vital. This photo gallery, published ahead of World Humanitarian Day, explores how Swedish social enterprise Better Shelter is working with the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR to put innovative design into action in emergency settings across the world.

Its shelters are designed to be more robust and durable than the tents humanitarian organisations typically supply. Unlike tents, which last for around three to six months, the metal structures and polypropylene panels of the Better Shelter units are designed to withstand harsh sunlight, strong winds and dust storms, and last for at least three years. Feedback from refugees in Ethiopia, Iraq, Macedonia and Nepal now using the Better Shelters is helping to shape how the design evolves.

Click here to listen to an audio interview with Johan Karlsson, head of business development at Better Shelter.