Ikea Foundation Goes Where Other Funders Won't. This Time: Sudan

Funding in conflict areas of the world is complex and messy. Funders worry whether their money will get to the people who need help or disappear into the hands of corrupt individuals and organizations.

The Ikea Foundation is looking past those very real concerns, and continues to pour money into hotspots that other funders won't touch—like its big gift a while back to the UNCHR for the Syrian refugee crisis and, most recently, its give in long suffering Sudan.

Related: Keep an Eye on the Ikea Foundation. It’s Getting Bigger, and Goes Where the Pain Is

Sudan has become one of most violent places on Earth in the past decade. One wrenching dimension of that violence has been child soldiers, with as many as 12,000 children recruited into armed forces over over time. Many of them have been released from arms in recent years, but with deep psychological scars. 

Following the peace agreement between President Salva Kiir’s government and the militant group, South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction, an additional 280 child soldiers—boys between the ages of 11 and 17—were released in South Sudan. It was estimated that an additional 3,000 boys are to be set free by the Cobra Faction in the months that followed. That’s just a fraction of the thousands of children that have been recruited to fight a war they don’t understand, but it’s a start.  

Reintegration is the first step toward providing these boys with even a modicum of what could be considered a normal life. UNICEF is estimating that the cost for the reintegration of each former child soldier stands at around $2,300 annually. To help with those costs, the Ikea Foundation has made the first donation to UNICEF’s reintegration program with a €1.6 million gift. 

As we've explained before, the Ikea Foundation has been around since the early 1980s, but initially it limited its funding to architecture and interior design programs. Now, the Ikea Foundation has completely shifted gears, focusing its funding dollars on disaster response and relief, female empowerment, fighting against child labor and for children’s rights, and helping refugee children and their families. The Ikea Foundation has quite a history of jumping in to help families and children in conflict and war torn areas of the world.

What's more, the foundation's funding is pegged to the company's profits, so as Ikea's sales have increased, so has its giving. In fact, Ikea is now one of the largest corporate funders focused on global giving, and it tends to make big gifts. 

In the recent past, the foundation has also committed €76 million to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) and other refugee organizations to provide shelter, care, and education for refugee children and their families in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Bangladesh. Ikea also donated €62 million over three years to UNHCR to help the agency’s efforts in assisting 120,000 Somali refugees who had recently arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

A violent world needs more funders like Ikea, which doesn't allow the complexities and messiness of conflict areas to deter it from helping people in those regions where human suffering often exists in its rawest forms.