Better Shelter, IKEA Foundation and UNHCR ready to improve life for thousands of refugee families

A unique collaboration between the IKEA Foundation and the UNHCR has resulted in a new, innovative, safer and more durable shelter for refugee families around the world. UNHCR has placed an order of 10,000 units with the social enterprise Better Shelter. Better Shelter was started by the Housing for All Foundation, a non-profit foundation established by the IKEA Foundation.

With a safe and functional temporary shelter delivered in flat packs, Better Shelter together with the UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation wants to bring dignity and safety to the millions of refugees fleeing violence, armed conflict, persecution and natural disasters. This unique partnership has introduced an innovative approach to designing for refugees and putting their needs at the heart of the development process.

In a groundbreaking example of democratic design (form, function, quality, sustainability and an affordable price), the prototype has been tested and improved by 40 refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia. Their experiences and needs have been at the heart of the development process. Following the field testing the shelter design has been improved and is now getting ready for production.

The Better Shelter is a temporary shelter designed with special attention to transport volume, weight, price, safety as well as health and comfort. It can be assembled on site without additional tools and equipment, and is fitted with a solar panel and lamp to provide light during the dark hours. The expected lifespan of the shelter is three years.

Production of shelters is about to begin and in the summer of 2015 UNHCR will start delivering shelters to thousands of families in refugee camps.

“Better Shelter will ship 10,000 units to UNHCR in 2015 for use by UNHCR operations globally – and that is just the beginning. We will continue to develop the Better Shelter and also provide other solutions to benefit the many displaced people. Innovation is our strongest driving force,” says Johan Karlsson, Head of Business Development, at Better Shelter.

“The refugee housing unit is an exciting new development in humanitarian shelter and represents a much needed addition to the palette of sheltering options mobilized to assist those in need. Its deployment will ensure dramatic improvement to the lives of many people affected by crises,” says Shaun Scales, Chief of Shelter and Settlement, at UNHCR.
“Putting refugee families and their needs at the heart of this project is a great example of how democratic design can be used for humanitarian value.  We are incredibly proud that the Better Shelter is now available, so refugee families and children can have a safer place to call home,” says Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Strategic Planning and Communications, at the IKEA Foundation

About Better Shelter

Better Shelter’s mission is to develop and provide innovative housing solutions for the many people displaced by conflicts and natural disasters. The Better Shelter Housing Unit is a weatherproof and socially sustainable temporary shelter. It offers a more dignified home for displaced people and a cost-effective solution for humanitarian organizations. Better Shelter is a social enterprise, with entrepreneurial energy and market discipline, aiming to achieve social change at scale in a financially self-sustainable way. Every dollar generated in profit is reinvested within the company or distributed to Better shelter’s philanthropic owner, the Housing for All Foundation. Better Shelter is brand of Refugee Housing Unit RHU AB. For more information please visit


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 8,600 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons. For more information please visit or

About IKEA Foundation

The IKEA Foundation aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities by funding holistic, long-term programmes that can create substantial, lasting change. The IKEA Foundation works with strong strategic partners applying innovative approaches to achieve large-scale results in four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and a sustainable family income. Learn more at and

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In collaboration with

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In collaboration with
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency