Setting up shop in a refugee camp

Stories from Cox's Bazar - challenges and hope in a Rohingya refugee camp

Starting a business is always a challenge, especially when your shop is on a steep muddy slope in a refugee camp. Minara and her husband were forced to abandon their home and business in Myanmar and start from scratch in ‘Camp 14’ in Bangladesh.

They had two shops in Rakhine state, Myanmar, and were busy piling up stock for Eid – one of the largest religious festival for Muslims – when the conflict in the area escalated. On a fateful day, their shops were looted and burned down. The family left Myanmar empty-handed and landed in the camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.


Minara, Rohingya refugee, sits in front of her shop in Camp 14, Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh

Starting from scratch

When Minara and her husband got to the refugee camp, they scraped some money together and started a small shop. However, the lack of infrastructure in the camp was a major challenge - to get supplies for the shop, they had to go 200 feet downhill and bring heavy bags of supplies back uphill. There were no stairs and things got more difficult during rainy season, when the slope became extremely slippery.

Staircases connect communities

Christian Aid, supported by the World Food Programme, implemented a project that helped give Minara’s business a boost – the Community-Based Risk Mitigation and Rehabilitation for Disaster Risk Reduction Through Food Assets (FFA) to Vulnerable Rohingya Refugees and Host Community project.

The project started to address the dangerous slopes, by building 11 pathways and creating or upgrading 39 stairways in camps 14, 15 and 16.

When the stairs were built, it became easier for customers to visit the shop and Minara’s sales doubled. The shop became a community hub, where people come to rest and chat, as well as buying shopping.

A newly renovated staircase in a Rohingya refugee camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

We will fully receive the benefit of these stairways during upcoming monsoon season. The stairs will be much less muddy and getting supplies from the market will be easier.


Access to healthcare, markets and play

Minara is just one of the people who are enjoying the quicker, safer and easier routes around the camp. For example, it is now far easier for people to get to the ‘Camp-in-Charge’s office’ for administration issues, the health centers and local markets.

Children play on the newly constructed 'landings' in a Rohingya refugee camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Children play on the newly constructed 'landings' in a Rohingya refugee camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh