Swedish refugee shelters used in global coronavirus reponse


International and local humanitarian aid organizations are using the Swedish organisation Better Shelter’s temporary shelters in their response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Sweden and around the world. The accommodation produced by Better Shelter is normally used as a temporary home or as a field clinic in refugee camps, but the recent crisis has highlighted the need for quick-to-install buildings for health care facilities worldwide.

Worldwide, countries are dealing with the impact of COVID-19, the disease which is spreading rapidly around the world, and undertaking efforts to prevent further outbreaks. Last week a Better Shelter accommodation was set up outside the main entrance of the Östra Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, by members of the Swedish Red Cross and Better Shelter together with volunteers from the region. Starting today, the shelter, donated to the Red Cross by IKEA Sweden, will be staffed by Red Cross volunteers who will provide information sessions to the general public on COVID-19.

“Receiving support and clear information is crucial in all types of crises. All visitors at the hospital are welcome to come by our unit, whether or not they have visited the hospital for COVID-19,” , says Ylva Jonsson Strömberg, Head of Disaster Management, Swedish Red Cross. “This effort is done in collaboration with the Östra Hospital with the aim to help spread information and to support visitors and relatives. “

The use of Better Shelter’s units within Sweden is an exceptional measure, under exceptional circumstances.

“Normally we build temporary homes for refugee families or field clinics in the Middle East and Africa”, says Johan Karlsson, co-founder and Managing Director of Better Shelter. “In Burundi and in the Central African Republic (CAR) , for example, our shelters have served as reception centers and isolation rooms for people infected by Ebola.”

Stockholm-based Better Shelter developed its temporary shelters in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the IKEA Foundation to give displaced populations a temporary, but safe, home. Since 2015, over 50,000 shelters have been delivered to humanitarian emergency response operations and refugee camps in nearly 50 countries.

Amidst the growing COVID-19 crisis, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is presently setting up hundreds of Better Shelter units in Brazil, Colombia, Niger and Jordan where they will be used as isolation rooms for confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19.

“Since the beginning of the Venezuelan emergency in 2017, refugees have found proper shelter in the Better Shelter units we set up in refugee shelters in northern Brazil, “says Jose Egas, UNHCR’s representative in Brazil, “we have Better Shelter units in the 13 official shelters in the State hosting nearly 7,000 people, but they have also been used to establish educational facilities, registration units, and we are currently using 250 units in the new COVID-19 Area of Protection and Care in Boa Vista (Coronavirus hospital with a capacity of up to 2,200 people) where patients, refugees and host community alike, will be treated and isolated to avoid further spreading of COVID-19. They are a great support for the most vulnerable during difficult times.”

Refugee camps are often crowded and people have limited access to soap, clean water and medical care. International and national humanitarian organisations are working hard to prevent and mitigate the spread in refugee camps and areas where displaced are, where the virus could have catastrophic consequences.

“We are pleased to be able to play our part in the fight against the coronavirus, both here at home and around the world. In crisis operations every second counts. Better Shelter’s buildings are a good fit, and I believe they will be used in many more places during the corona crisis.” adds Johan Karlsson.

For images and more information, please contact: Märta Aretakis Terne, Head of Communications, Better Shelter | marta.terne@bettershelter.org | 0702 99 18 80

Better Shelter RHU AB is a humanitarian innovation project and social enterprise based in Stockholm, Sweden. Our mission is to improve the lives of refugees by providing temporary, yet safe, homes. The project started in 2010 in collaboration with the Ikea Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Since 2015, Better Shelter has delivered more than 50,000 shelters to refugee camps in over 50 countries worldwide. The modular homes are delivered in flat packages and can be set up in a few hours without tools or electricity. Every shelter is equipped with a lockable door and a solar powered lamp. Today, they are not only used as temporary housing, but also as clinics, classrooms and other community-promoting infrastructure. More info: www.bettershelter.org