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

Jobs are scarce in the camps, especially for women and although a large amount of construction is underway, there are very few female workers employed.

Christian Aid has been working in a cash-for-work programme with the World Food Programme (WFP) which has given over 850 women from refugee and host communities the opportunity to work on different construction sites and receive the same wage as the men. In total, the project has helped over 2,500 refugees and 500 people from the local host community get paid for working.

The aim is to improve the infrastructure of the camp and make it safer for residents, including road and pathway construction, staircase and drainage upgrades, building bamboo bridges and stabilising slopes.

Priority was given to the most vulnerable and where there was a clear need - female-headed households, households where someone had a disability, or there were elderly or chronically ill people.

Saika, a Rohingya refugee from camp 14 in Bangladesh
Saika left her home in Rakhine State, Myanmar, with her sick husband and three children, when escalating violence made it too risky to stay. After a 12-day walk from her village, she managed to reach the Bangladesh border and settled in the camp with her family. Saika’s husband has been suffering from lung disease and could not work. Thanks to the cash-for-work programme she was able to earn money to buy medicine and food for her family, by supplying water to help with construction in the camp.

Our religion prohibits us from working with men. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning. But I continued working as I did not face any problem working here with men

- Saika.

Jobs are scarce in Rohingya refugee camps, especially for people with disabilities as the limited employment opportunities available often demand heavy physical labour. 

Christian Aid has also been using cash-for-work projects to help people with disabilities find jobs, earn money and support themselves and their families.

We continue to push for inclusive programming to ensure we ’leave no one behind’, and there are opportunities for all, regardless of – gender, ethnicity, caste, religion, class, sexual orientation, disability or age.

Twenty-eight-year-old Din Mohammad was born with deformed legs and walks with crutches. He used to own a small shop in Myanmar, but like almost every Rohingya refugee, he was forced to abandon everything he had to flee the violence. He took part in the programme as a supervisor on a drainage upgrade site. His responsibilities were to support labourers working on the construction site, and give them water when necessary. Since the construction ended, Din Mohammad is again out of work as there are so few employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Din Mohammad, on crutches in Rohingya refugee Camp 15, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

I received equal pay to the other workers. I was not discriminated against because of my disability

- Din Mohammad.

Starting a business is always a challenge, especially when your shop is on a steep, muddy slope in a refugee camp.

Christian Aid, supported by the WFP, implemented a project that began to address the problem of dangerous slopes in the camps, by building 11 pathways and creating or upgrading 39 stairways. 

Minara, Rohingya refugee, sits in front of her shop in Camp 14, Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh
Minara and her husband used to run two shops in Myanmar, which were looted and burned. Having fled to the camp they started a small shop again. 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 carry heavy bags of supplies back up again. There were no stairs and things got even more difficult during the rainy season, when the slope became extremely slippery. 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 shop.

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

- Minara.

Minara is just one of the people who are enjoying the quicker, safer and easier routes around the camp. It is now far easier for people to get to the camp office to discuss administration issues, the health centres and the local markets.

Steps in Rohingya camp