Providing shelter in times of crisis
For almost half a century the UNICEF iconic tent has provided shelter to people affected by conflict and disaster.
For nearly five decades UNICEF has supplied tents to provide shelter to people fleeing conflict and disaster.
They are one of the first supplies deployed in an emergency.
With disasters often leaving infrastructure partially or completely destroyed, the tents become makeshift classrooms for displaced students, nutrition facilities providing critical care or safe spaces for children traumatized by what they have witnessed.
In the early days of operations, these were no more than basic tents, tarpaulins and shelter supplies. Today, they are highly specialized pieces of equipment, specifically designed for the increasing harsh weather driven by climate change as well as the remote areas where UNICEF works.
In 2020, the latest generation of UNICEF tents – known as the High Performance Tent – was unveiled, replacing the older generation of tents.
The High Performance Tent is a significantly more advanced design that can last three times longer and withstand 80km/h winds. They are also easier to transport to hard-to-reach locations and can be installed by a non-technical team within 2–3 hours.
New full-sized windows and an elevated shade net keep the tents cooler in warm climates, while a winter liner add-on can keep them warm in cold weather. A new straight wall design also creates a larger space so more people can fit comfortably, while an improved anchoring system prevents tents from collapsing in strong winds.
The tents can also be ordered with a range of innovative add-ons, including:
- A solar panel or electrical kit for power and lights in temporary classrooms and for increased safety at night.
- Hard plastic flooring to create a firm, level surface which can increase load bearing in tents used as storage facilities. It also makes temporary classrooms more comfortable, as well as more accessible for children living with disabilities.
- A winter liner which can be hung inside the tent to keep classrooms warm so children can focus on their schoolwork in cold climates. The liner makes tents usable in areas with temperatures as low as -16°C (3.2°F).
- An inner liner also hung inside the tent to make a more comfortable and stress-free environment for children recovering and sheltering from traumatic situations in UNICEF child-friendly spaces.
Since their introduction in 2020, over 7,000 High Performance Tents have been procured, including in Uganda, Afghanistan, Haiti and Fiji.
The tents were developed through UNICEF Supply Division’s innovation process. Innovation teams worked with emergency and supply experts in 20 countries to understand how the iconic UNICEF tent could be redesigned to better meet field needs and ultimately support children and families fleeing crises.
The result? Over 1,000 different requirements were identified and communicated to industry through a Target Product Profile (TPP). TPPs bring field knowledge to industry, outlining UNICEF’s unmet needs and challenging manufactures to come up with their own innovative solutions.
Product proposals from suppliers were narrowed down through a competitive process of laboratory testing and trials. This included subjecting tent prototypes to hurricane-force winds and below freezing temperatures to test durability and thermal performance at the Jules Verne Climatic Wind Tunnel in Nantes, France.
The final products were also tested in three countries to ensure they could withstand a full range of challenging weather conditions, including in Uganda for a hot dry climate with sandstorms, the Philippines for a humid climate and Afghanistan for a cold climate with heavy snow.
This structured approach to co-creation and innovation within public procurement allowed for agile iterations of the product, with suppliers meeting with communities to understand need and develop the best possible product.
The result is a versatile and long-lasting tent which creates a safe space so children affected by conflict and disasters can focus on learning and recover.