Recently, IKEA (bless them and their cheap bookcases) has teamed up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to create Better Shelter – a new type of humanitarian aid that allows for a housing unit to be shipped in two flatpack boxes anywhere in the world. The shelters can be easily constructed with simple tools, are weather-proof, and come equipped with solar panels and mosquito nets. These type of considerations allow the Better Shelter units to be sent to areas where people need protection from difficult climates and diseases such as malaria. Better Shelter has sent thousands of units to places like Greece, Iraq, and Ethiopia.
Though these shelters are useful and an incredible effort to attempt to make life as a refugee just the smallest bit safer, solar panels and IKEA can’t solve the refugee crisis alone. The shelters are temporary and do not help to resettle refugees into new nations safe from persecution. The units are more efficient than tents, but they are still costly and fail to incorporate local materials.
So, now what? Millions of refugees are still without real homes and the forces that sent them fleeing from their native countries are not going away any time soon. It’s overwhelming and complicated. It’s also what makes it so crucial that we, as believers, continue to pray and serve. Refugees around the world need so much more than shelter. They need to know the incredible love of Christ and the salvation found only in God.
So maybe today I feel distressed by the insurmountable number of refugees whose numbers only continue to rise. Yet, I am also grateful for organizations who are trying to help in any way they can. I am confident that God is not overwhelmed by this. He knows each man, woman, and child who has run for their lives. He provides far more than shelter – He is the ultimate peace Himself.
For more information on the UNHCR Better Shelter Units, check out: http://innovation.unhcr.org/labs_post/refugee-housing-unit/