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Barcelona-based start-up which paired with UNICEF lab to design the ultimate minimalist bed

“Boring as any other bed, but 80% cheaper”, states Humanitaria on its website, the Barcelona-based start-up which paired with UNICEF lab to design the ultimate minimalist bed for humanitarian emergencies, in terms of efficiency and economically.

The solution ensures prompt aid within the first 24 hours of an emergency, the critical window for delivering help, and a few hundred units will be tested during the rescue operations planned by Creu Roja de Catalunya (Catalunya’s Red Cross organization), this autumn.

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Cardboard beds assembled. A single person can set up 700 beds in one hour. 
Photo courtesy of Humanitaria

These cardboard beds are not supposed to be permanent, considering that the low costs, the ease of manufacture and the easy setup are elements far more important to be guaranteed. So the product sets some important standards for the category, right away.

Humanitaria has observed that NGOs worldwide mainly provide two camping bed designs, that are between 60 and 200 times slower to be assembled than the cardboard bed.

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The difference between the traditional solutions and the cardboard one, in terms of time of assembling. From Humanitaria website.

As the speed of delivery and assembly must meet very strict standards, the costs have to be sustainable for the reception centers, above all, according to Humanitaria. "The cost of 1,000 beds for a refugee camp ranges from €100 to €200 and it takes up to two weeks to produce them, another two weeks to ship them (by land or sea) and more than 24 hours to install and set them up. With Humanitaria, 1.000 beds cost €16 are shipped folded by plane and set up in 20 minutes," explains Juan Sanz, CEO and co-founder of the project.

In terms of production, the cardboard bed represents a cost reduction of 90% compared to the price of other humanitarian beds, The design piece also allows to greatly shortening the time it takes to set up a field hospital, reducing the number of staff and associated costs. With it, Humanitaria applies for the first time the concepts of specialization and super-efficiency to humanitarian equipment, the daily tool of social sector organizations, and one of the biggest expenses that every NGO faces annually, exceeding 40% of their annual budget.

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Assembled beds in use.
Photo courtesy of Humanitaria.

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Assembled beds in use.
Photo courtesy of Humanitaria.

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The extra flatness of the bed in the initial position allows storage in large numbers (100 units on a pallet). By folding it, one of the two flaps forms the first layer of the support surface and the other folds in the opposite direction, creating a surface of great resistance that holds the weight of an adult.

"Those who question the durability don't understand the approach of this product. It is the fastest, most pluralistic and most economical solution. It was not in our plans to design a product that would last ten years in perfect condition. Even so, we doubled the approved resistance for a humanitarian bed”, comments Héctor Muñoz, head of manufacturing.

Cardboard is the cheapest structural and durable material there is. It lasts long enough to cope with a humanitarian emergency but it is sturdy enough. It can support up to 350 kilograms of weight (!), fulfilling far better its function than traditional designs used by NGOs, that support up to 150 kg.

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Founders with the product.
Photo courtesy of Humanitaria.

The beds can be manufactured at a rate of 24,000 units per day and easily be shipped in large quantities in the fast way possible, just to ensure a safe place for hundreds of thousand of people seeking shelter in a place that guarantees safety, comfort at the lowest possible cost, in order to reach more people in need.

By using a light and extra-flat material such as cardboard, as well as being ecological and recyclable, they can also massively ship hundreds of beds in the hold of an airplane. Something unfeasible until now due to the weight and volume limitations of air transport, which forces NGOs to send by plane only the most urgent materials, such as clothes and medicines. One of the biggest issue for the NGOs lies, in fact, in the severe economic constraints represented by air shipping, which is the most expensive way of transport.

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“We make it accessible to as many organizations as possible, who will be able to help more people. We are just one part of a whole.” ー Juan Sanz, CEO and founder of Humanitaria

The startup was a finalist in the Red Cross Humanitarian Technology Awards and was selected as one of the six social innovation proposals aspiring to the Magellan-Elcano 2022 Humanitarian Innovation Awards.


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