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‘60 Million People Forcibly Displaced Globally’

By Richard Wottrich September 29, 2015, Atlanta USA  Click to see the original of this on the web:Gimmi Shelter – ‘60 million people forcibly displaced globally’ (click on any image to see it larger)

Today an estimated 60 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide: 19.5 million refugees, 38.2 million internally displaced, and 1.8 million seeking asylum. The refugee crisis spawned in Syria that is streaming hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe is but the latest iteration of this human condition.

‘It is argued that a safely built environment, including adequate housing conditions, is one of the most elemental human needs. Nonetheless, around one billion (one-sixth) of the world's population currently live in slums and squatters and a large proportion of refugees reside in inadequate shelters.’ [i]

Forcibly displaced people are but the tip of the iceberg.

It has been demonstrated that the most important first step in helping forcibly displaced people worldwide is providing shelter — a sense of place, a roof over their heads, a floor under their feet, privacy, and ultimately human dignity.

This is not complicated. This is where the rubber meets the road. Here are some of the creative resources meeting this need worldwide.

IKEA A/S has employed its extensive flat-pack logistics skill sets to designing a comfortable, solar-powered shelter that can provide emergency housing for natural disaster victims and refugees. The IKEA flat-pack homes were developed in coordination with the IKEA Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).

IKEA's flat-packed, lightweight plastic shelters are easily assembled on any flat site. The 188 square foot hut is twice the size of a 'regulation' refugee tent and can be assembled in four hours. Five people can sleep comfortably inside. These homes have solar paneled roofing, providing on-site electricity. The roof also helps to deflect solar energy by 70%, keeping the interior cooler during the day and warmer at night.

IKEA will produce 10,000 flat pack shelters for UNHCR as temporary homes for refugees across the world. The 'Better Shelter' units will be available to be rolled out on a mass scale following successful trials in Ethiopia and along the borders of Syria, in 2013. IKEA shelters cost between $1,150 and $1,500 depending upon configuration.

IKEA flat pack shelter "Enlarge This Image"

Last year's Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban has been focusing on shelters for twenty years via his Voluntary Architects' Network. Ban is known for his innovative work with paper; particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims. They developed temporary shelters after the April 2015 Nepal earthquake (Gorkha earthquake) killed more than 9,000 people, injured more than 23,000, and destroyed 500,000 homes. Their work has evolved further into shelters that utilize reclaimed rubble and fiberglass panels.

Global Village Shelter, LLC, has deployed thousands of its flat-packed, durable housing units to Pakistan, Honduras, Guatemala, Grenada, and New Orleans — as well as to MoMA's permanent collection. Its architects, Dan and Mia Ferrara, also created an innovative modular factory that can be shipped anywhere for on-site production, lowering each unit's $2,500 price tag down to roughly $1000.

Ferrara said, ‘Our system is the only system that is low cost, meets all international standards, can be easily shipped in containers, provides jobs for set up and manufacturing and works with local entrepreneurs’. The company has factories in Los Angeles and Mexico and is seeking funding to produce their shelters on a broad scale.

Highly respected architect, designer, and artist Abeer Seikaly has created unique ecological weaved tents to provide homes for refugees in war-torn areas and victims of natural disasters. Seikaly's eloquent design won the Lexus Design Award in 2013, but the tent is still at a prototype stage.

More than a tent, his creation combines mobility and comfort (heat, storage, running water and electricity) using nature as a guide. The double-layer fabric allows the tent to be closed against the cold and rain when needed while draining or collecting rain water. When the weather is hot, the tent opens up to let cool air in and hot air out. A water tank at the peak can be used to shower and the energy from the sun is stored in a battery providing renewable electricity.

Seikaly said of his shelter, ‘In this space, the refugees find a place to pause from their turbulent worlds, a place to weave the tapestry of their new lives. They weave their shelter into home.’

Abeer Seikaly Woven Tent "Enlarge This Image"

By definition most refugee camps globally use various tent shelters. Tents lack proper flooring. Sleeping on cold ground can cause serious health problems, and at worst, flash-flooding can cause further displacement. This issue inspired Scott Austin Key and Sam Brisendine , co-founders of Houston-based Good Works Studio, to create Emergency Floor , a sustainable, affordable solution that can deployed to camps across the globe. Having such a quick-fix during the initial camp set-up phase may reduce flooding issues and illnesses.

Turkey has taken the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis, coping with two million displaced Syrians. They have built one of the most orderly and efficient refugee camps in the world, known as the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency's Kilis Oncupinar Accommodation Facility.

The camp is composed of 2,053 identical shipping containers adapted into living quarters spread out in neat rows housing over 14,000 people. There are paved passageways. There are schools and stores. There is a hospital. There are police and metal detectors. The camp is relatively safe.

Turkey has built at least six identical camps along its border with Syria. There are no tents or any of the problems usual for such temporary facilities — garbage, raw sewage, and muddy narrow passageways. The Turks have undertaken this approach for political reasons of course. But what country would not have a political problem and an economic problem dealing with two million refugees.

By contrast the world's largest refugee camps are at Dadaab near the Kenya-Somalia border, Kenya and Somalia have tolerated the UNHCR base housing 350,000 people in five camps. These camps cover 20 square miles.

The Dadaab camps were constructed in the early 1990s. Ifo camp was first settled by refugees of the civil war in Somalia, and later efforts were made by UNHCR to improve the camp. As the population expanded, UNHCR contacted German architect Werner Shellenberg who drew the original design for Dagahaley Camp and Swedish architect Per Iwansson who designed and initiated the creation of Hagadera camp.

Turkish Refugee Camp "Enlarge This Image"

Refugee shelters can be plastic tarps, tents, shipping containers or innovative low-cost design solutions. But shelter solutions of necessity simply highlight the reality of providing security to forcibly displaced people across the world.

A camp is still a camp. Shelters are temporary. Nobody wants to stay there. Nobody wants to leave their home. Everyone wants to go home. No one knows when. But the immediate need is to shelter fellow human beings. As the Rolling Stones intoned long ago, ' GimmeShelter.'

Richard L. Wottrich, CEO & Senior Consultant, International Services

[i] Habib, R., Basma, S., and Yeretzian, J. “Harboring illnesses: On the association between disease and living conditions in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.” International Journal of Environmental Health Research. 16.2 (2006): 99-111.

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