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What is a Refugee Tent?

Refugee tents provide temporary housing for displaced individuals and families fleeing conflict
Refugee tents provide temporary housing for displaced individuals and families fleeing conflict

In times of crisis (wars or natural disasters), many people have to abandon their homes in a rush and find a safer place.

Great, you already knew that.

But do you know where the refugees sleep in the camps?

Stop being arrogant and read on.

How Is Life in a Refugee Camp?

Life in a refugee camp can be a place for community and hope
Life in a refugee camp can be a place for community and hope

Truth be told, living in a refugee camp can sometimes be a nightmare:

  • Refugees get basic food, water, and medical care, but the camp is cramped with not a lot of privacy

  • Abuses happen as some refugees in the camp have bad intentions

  • Boredom sets in too, as there isn’t much to do

  • The mood is quite heavy as people just lost their homes

But despite the challenges, refugees are much safer in the camps, with their basic needs covered.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) runs most official camps, trucking in tent materials, tools and food, while partner agencies distribute the goods and provide clinics and schools.

The experts currently estimate that over 26 million refugees are in camps all around the world, so it’s not a surprise that the existing systems are not sustainable.

More supplies and staff are desperately needed.

The Life-Saving Tent for Refugees

Life saving tents provide immediate shelter for refugees
Life saving tents provide immediate shelter for refugees

As the name indicates, tents are key to every camp.

UNHCR is normally in charge of the tents, that:

  • Are made of canvas or plastic over metal poles

  • Can normally accommodate 5 to 8 people

  • Serve as distribution points, classrooms and health centers

But unfortunately, tents are not a sustainable option over the longer-term:

We need to addressing the issues on refugee tents
We need to addressing the issues on refugee tents
  • They wear out under the sun and storms

  • Floors often get mushy and dusty

  • Fires can spread rapidly

  • When not secured right, tents can be ripped by strong winds

While a good job has been done so far, with 300,000 refugee families living in adequate tents, much more is needed.

The problem, though, is that that is not easy.

While the goal is public (have even more refugee families in proper tents) replacing old tents is tough with limited budgets.

This is where partners can get creative.

A Tent Partnership for Better Shelters

Tent partnerships are a great way to improve the lives of refugees
Tent partnerships are a great way to improve the lives of refugees

Sure, UNHCR can handle basic fixes like digging drainage trenches and adding wooden pallets so that refugees don’t sink into the muddy ground.

But can the UNCHR meet every need out there?

Not a chance.

So it’s a good thing that outside partners have stepped up to help out with creating safer shelters:


In Kenya’s Kakuma camp, the IKEA Foundation funded new lockable “Fortalta” shelters with steel frames and snap-together panels.

Refugees even get paid to help build them, earning a little cash too, which is great for their integration.

Over 16,000 shelters are now set up in East Africa and we expect many more to come.


In Bangladesh, Switzerland funded covered shelters with indoor and outdoor spaces for 40,000 people to help them deal with heat and monsoons.


In Nigeria’s capital, Niger, the UNHCR teamed up to install raised shelters with underground airflow pipes to keep the temperatures under control.

These tent partnerships are changing the refugee housing game and we really hope they continue & more come up.

Connecting Refugees with Opportunities is the Solution

Let's give refugees a change - they deserve it
Let’s give refugees a change – they deserve it

As we’ve written above, refugees are not guilty of their situation (they certainly didn’t have the choice of leaving their countries) and so we owe them to look after their wellbeing.

The best way to contribute to the wellbeing of refugees is to give them opportunities and not just put them all cramped in a refugee camp (sure, that helps, but you get our idea: we should do more).

It’s not hard to do so and in fact many great ideas have come from the refugees themselves:

  • In East African camps, the non-profit Movement on the Ground trained refugees to map settlements using phones and drones

  • Kakuma’s Kalobeyei Settlement brings refugees together with nearby Kenyan villagers in a shared local economy

    • They can live and work in town, building ties with the community that ease tensions and reduces conflicts

  • The Refugee Ventures Fund helps refugees launch businesses via grants and mentoring

    • Refugees have even invented solar companies, which now light up shelters while creating jobs and improving the quality of life for all camp residents

  • Online platforms like RefuShe and NaTakallam hire displaced folks as teachers, translators, and tech assistants for international customers

Efforts like these connect refugee talent to new opportunities in new communities, playing a huge role in their integration into society.

Joining Forces for a Greater Impact

Humanity should join forces to address the challenges faced by refugees
Humanity should join forces to address the challenges faced by refugees

With recent foreign aid cuts, entities need to get creative with new partnerships to improve temporary shelters and living conditions in the refugee camps:

  • Companies can bring funding, innovative housing solutions, and manufacturing capabilities

  • Researchers supply the key data to guide decisions

  • Communication partners create campaigns to draw global attention & support

By joining forces, aid groups can stretch budgets further to upgrade shelters and expand critical services, even with more refugees arriving daily.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fact that refugee camps are overwhelmed by all the people displaced globally.

With creative new partnerships bringing tech brainpower, real-world smarts, and financial budgets together, we can protect families who are running from trauma with better tents and support so that they can start rebuilding their lives in safer places.

We owe them that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Do Refugees Live in Refugee Camps?

Though meant to be temporary, refugee camps often become long-term homes. On average, refugees are stuck in camps for a staggering 17 years before finding more permanent resettlement solutions.

Where Do Refugees Go After Fleeing?

When refugees are forced to leave their countries in a rush because of violence or persecution, they have to scramble to the first safe place that’ll take them in. That’s usually a crowded refugee camp in a neighboring country run by the UN or aid groups until the chaos at home hopefully stops.