Ten years of war: Better Shelter and partners call for rapid protection of displaced families in Northwest Syria


The Swedish social enterprise Better Shelter, together with local and international NGOs in northwest Syria, calls for increased protection, safety and dignity for displaced families in the region. The provision of temporary shelter solutions improved living conditions for thousands of households in 2020, but there are still many more people who need support and the situation remains urgent.

March 15th marks ten years of war in Syria – a grim milestone for the deadliest civil conflict in recent history. More than 12 million Syrians are displaced outside and within the country and much of Syria’s civil infrastructure has been destroyed.

The nation is, of course, also affected by Covid-19, with 21,000 confirmed cases and 399 confirmed deaths from the virus, according to the latest SCD report. Limited access to tests and Personal Protective Equipment has made the situation even harder for many families living here or aiming to return.

The 2019 Northwest Syria offensive has left a total of 2.7 million in need of humanitarian assistance in the region. 1.6 million people live in emergency shelters here – a majority in tents. Recent storms destroyed 25,000 tents in a matter of days, leaving 142,000 people displaced and – yet again – without shelter.

“This war must end. The situation is severe. We must all do everything we can to support the people of Syria, who have experienced a decade of war. We call for the international community to turn its focus toward Syria. Governments, donors, international and local NGOs must collaborate to increase safety and protection of displaced Syrians until this war finally ends.”, says Johan Karlsson, Managing Director, Better Shelter.

Through the implementation of 6,700 Better Shelters in 2020, at least 30,000 Syrians gained access to a safer, more private and more dignified place to live while they are displaced. 52 of these units serve as Covid-19 quarantine wards at a medical centre located outside Idlib in northwest Syria. The facility has capacity for up to 260 patients.

“Thank god I now feel a sense of security, safety, and comfort in this new temporary house! I hope all other forcibly displaced brothers and sisters will have the same opportunity to receive a better shelter similar to the one that I have received.”, says Mrs. Om Hamdan, a woman living in a Better Shelter in a camp for internally displaced people in Idlib Governorate, Northwest Syria.

Achieving rapid implementation of the camps has been key for implementing partners. Through remote or on-site training, Better Shelter’s engineers have helped the assembly process accelerate so its partners can build up to 100 Better Shelters per day.

These implementations have been made possible through generous support by donors and by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, as well as by local NGOs: Maram Foundation for Relief and Development, ATAA Humanitarian Relief Association, Bonyan Organisation and Watan Foundation.

“I believe it is time to stop using tents. These shelters are delivering dignity and protection in addition to providing a better shelter. Everything around the world is improving to the better and it is time for the humanitarian community to think outside the box.”, Yakzan Shishakly, CEO of Maram Foundation for Relief & Development.

“We are proud of what our partners have achieved so far in the region. The needs remain enormous, but together we have the capacity to do even more. But this requires financing and we call for continued commitment by the global community in Syria.”, says Johan Karlsson.

Better Shelter is represented locally in Turkey and Syria by ACT Trade, a partner with long experience in working with the humanitarian sector. Through this partnership, Better Shelter offers a local presence with focused attention to accommodate each organization’s specific needs.

About the shelter

– 81 % of women feel safer in the Better Shelter.

– Quick set up and easy to scale: the shelters can be modified to different needs and contexts and can be implemented at scale.

– Long lasting solution: The Better Shelter lasts for several years and provides better protection against the weather elements. Can be repaired and upgraded with local building material.

– Privacy and protection: The Better Shelter offers a higher level of privacy and safety for women and children

– Recommended: The Better Shelter is recommended by NGOs in the region for locations where displaced people are likely to stay for more than one year

About Better Shelter

Better Shelter RHU AB is a humanitarian innovation project and social enterprise based in Stockholm, Sweden. Our mission is to improve the lives of forcibly displaced persons by providing affordable temporary shelter and a dignified, safer life away from home. The project started in 2010 in collaboration with the Ikea Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Since 2015, we have delivered more than 60,000 shelters to refugee camps in over 60 countries worldwide. Today, they are not only used as temporary housing, but also as clinics, classrooms and other community-promoting infrastructure. www.bettershelter.org

Media contacts

English media inquiries: Märta Aretakis Terne: marta.terne@bettershelter.org | +46 702 99 18 80

Arab media inquiries: Dalia Al-mokdad: press@bettershelter.org | +961 70 60 14 08