Text messages about the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria a few hours ago were always on Johan Karlsson's phone. As executive director of the Swedish-based NGO Better Shelter, Karlsson began contacting the group's charity partners to determine how they could help.
According to Karlsson, “We quickly realized it was on a much larger scale than what we had witnessed in the news.” A week has passed and more than 36,000 people have died. In Turkey alone, more than a million people were left homeless as tens of thousands of buildings collapsed and the surviving ones became uninhabitable. Those who managed to survive the initial devastation now had to endure severe cold and scarcity of necessities such as food and water.Refugee shelters made by Better Shelter come flat-packed and can be put together by volunteers in a matter of hours. Since he had previously operated in Syria, his Turkish colleagues had easy access to the 150 shelters housed in a small warehouse there. The Turkish Red Crescent is one of the organizations that started to establish shelters in Hatay, which was badly damaged. Better Shelter also had many more homes in Poland, thousands of miles away, but getting those homes there quickly was a challenge.
The day after the earthquake, the nonprofit teamed up with the Ikea Foundation, which has been supporting it for over a decade since the creators of Better Shelter built their first prototype.
The group's 5.000 shelters were in storage, and the foundation pledged to cover their transportation to Turkey and reimburse the nonprofit for costs. Later, Better Shelter asked Ikea itself for help.
Karlsson says: “We had logistical problems. “It would take months for the businesses we work with to move our stocks to Turkey. We called Ikea and begged them to help us. After all, you're just relocating flat-pack furniture.
After a call on Sunday, a truck that Ikea usually uses for delivery was in Gdansk, Poland, on Monday 13 February, full of bunkers, and headed for Turkey.
According to an Ikea Foundation spokesperson, 36 trucks from Ikea's delivery partners are currently operational. All 5.000 units will be in Turkey over the next three weeks and Karlsson describes this as an important logistical exercise. Each truck will depart from Poland in approximately six days.
Even when trucks can pass through Turkey's rough roads and enter Syria, there will still be hurdles to overcome. But according to Karlsson, since Better Shelter has been operating in the area for some time, it has a network of partners who can assist with last-mile logistics, and Turkish businesses have also contacted him to offer their assistance.
The shelters are built in such a way that they can be quickly put together within a few hours of delivery. Two flat-pack boxes, each light enough to be carried by two people, contain the components of a single shelter that can accommodate up to five people. When put together, it comes with walls, roof panels, a lockable door, a solar powered light and charger, a heater and blankets.
Since lightweight structures are more resistant to earthquake damage than those made of concrete, it is unlikely that the structures will suffer any damage. Before the earthquake, 10.000 shelters were established in Syria; Better Shelter has yet to receive any damage reports.
The NGO is currently increasing the number of shelters produced. More than 28.000 shelters are needed for humanitarian partners in Turkey and Syria, including the Better Shelter brand, along with larger emergency housing, according to the organization.
The group can produce up to 2.500 shelters per month. According to Karlsson, we switch production on and off quickly because of the way our supply chain is set up. 10.000 shelters are expected to be delivered in the coming months. Karlsson states that this is not a magic wand and other remedies will be needed. However, we think we can take a very important step.
Günceleme: 27/02/2023 19:09