It sounds like the set-up to a really bad joke—the world's refugees are going to start using shelters from Ikea. But the idea actually has the potential to do a world of good, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The shelters from the Ikea Foundation, the furniture maker's philanthropic arm, will be tested for the first time next month in southeastern Ethiopia. If they pass muster under the region's harsh conditions, they will be rolled out on a wider basis, potentially providing refugees a significant upgrade from the current mode of shelter used by millions the world over—tents.
The shelters have hard panels for better protection from the elements, a solar panel to provide electricity, and can be set up and taken down without tools. If they go into wide production, the shelters shouldn't cost much more than a standard tent, but they'd last about six times longer, reports the Monitor. (Ikea promises to make the final design available to other companies for commercial production.) "The new shelter has the potential to provide a more dignified temporary housing solution to refugees," says a UN official. "Essentially it could be a temporary home until people are able to return to their place of origin." (The news comes as the UN releases a report that found there was a new refugee every 4.1 seconds in 2012.)