You are here

You are here

  • Exterior view of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Centre in Gilgit, Pakistan. The Centre was built in nine days using modular prefabricated materials.
AKDN and Better Shelter build COVID-19 rapid response centres

AKAH sets up rapidly deployable, easy to build COVID-19 centre for AKHS in nine days.

Gilgit, Pakistan, 4 June 2020 - In Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral in Northern Pakistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), with support from Better Shelter, are setting up six COVID-19 rapid response centres using prefabricated materials and modular designs. Four of the centres will use shelter units donated by Better Shelter.

The urgent nature of the pandemic demands rapidly deployable, easy to build, adaptable technologies. While AKAH has the expertise and effective construction solutions to build structures quickly for emergency response that are adapted to remote mountain environments, Better Shelter has the modular, flat-pack, soft-structure shelter units that are easy to transport and install in humanitarian relief operations.

AKAH is deploying these modular units at four sites in Gilgit, Mastuj, Aliabad and Singal. For two additional sites in Gramchamsa and Booni, AKAH is using locally manufactured prefabricated sandwich panels, adapting hard and soft structures to the requirements of each site. A team of managers and engineers completed the first facility at the Aga Khan Medical Centre, Gilgit nine days after receiving the Better Shelter modules. 


Interior view of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Centre in Gilgit. AKAH, AKHS and Better Shelter teams collaborated to adapt the design to the needs of a high mountain emergency medical centre.

“A speedy response in an emergency is key to saving lives. AKAH therefore has always been in search of innovative ideas that can help in emergency response. These pre-fab technologies, especially soft structures, have helped us provide a speedy response,” said Nawab Ali Khan, CEO, AKAH, Pakistan.

AKAH’s architects and engineers worked with AKHS and Better Shelter to modify materials and design features of the Better Shelter units to the needs of a high mountain emergency medical facility. Key design modifications include vinyl flooring adapted for a health facility; low gauge galvanised metal sheeting for roof rain gutters; adjustments to exhaust fan openings; and improved flood protection. AKAH also constructed separate structures housing 12 washroom facilities dedicated for COVID patients.

Speaking about the partnership, Johan Karlsson, Managing Director, Better Shelter said: “We are very pleased to partner with Aga Khan Development Network on this project. Working together has been very satisfactory and we have successfully adapted our processes to unusual circumstances this spring. Foremost, we are happy to, via this project, be able to serve the people of Pakistan and help improve the nation’s resilience.”

Collaboration between AKAH, AKHS, and Better Shelter enabled an agile and adapted response to quickly scale up treatment facilities. Nadeem Husain Abbas, the CEO of Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan, said: “In emergencies it is imperative to start delivering health services to people and communities rapidly. The key is to provide these services in a safe and healthy environment; this is what makes this partnership with Better Shelter so relevant. Leveraging AKAH’s construction and engineering expertise and the modern, modular materials provided by Better Shelter, we were able to set up a facility to provide immediate relief to COVID-19 patients in a matter of days.”


Aerial view of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Centre under construction.

For more information, please contact:

Trushna Torche


Better Shelter RHU AB is a humanitarian innovation project and social enterprise based in Stockholm, Sweden. Our mission is to improve the lives of refugees by providing temporary, yet safe, homes. The project started in 2010 in collaboration with the Ikea Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Since 2015, Better Shelter has delivered more than 50,000 shelters to refugee camps in over 50 countries worldwide. The modular homes are delivered in flat packages and can be set up in a few hours without tools or electricity. Every shelter is equipped with a lockable door and a solar powered lamp. Today, they are not only used as temporary housing, but also as clinics, classrooms and other community-promoting infrastructure. More info: