Past Ukhiya bazar, a hill road beside the Girls' College leads to a place called Malvita Para where Shwettaj Jahan Tithi, a technical consultant working with the World Food Programme (WFP), is training local women on bamboo crafts.
These women have a background in crafts-making, but WFP, through its partner organisation Resource Integration Centre (RIC), is enhancing their skills with new, modern designs that has export potential.
These women, identified as most vulnerable in the community, have been given a one-time grant of Tk15,000 to revitalise their business, and a monthly support of Tk1,050 for ensuring nutrition for their family. In five unions under Ukhiya upazila, 11,000 participants receive this support. In addition, there are 440 groups who receive support for various income generating activities like poultry, fishery etc.
A few miles away, in Rudra Para, 24 families who have been engaged in pottery for generations, live. Among them, 12 participants receive similar benefits and training as part of the community development effort.
At Rudra Para, men and women were turning over their earthenware to get a good bake in the sun, before painting them with plant-based colour and burning them in fire.
As part of the effort to improve profitability, the trainer is trying to introduce new product ideas and designs to traditional potters. The training programme also includes sewing and cane craft-making, for other communities with conventional skill sets.
Extending livelihood and other support to the host community is very important as they are the worst victims of the refugee influx. Many people living in Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas in Cox's Bazar district have come under such support programmes.