Today Hawa runs the finest clothing shop in Ali Addeh refugee camp. Photo: Klaus Bo / Danish Refugee Council

”I thank God for the help from the Danish Refugee Council”

For years 65-year-old Hawa struggled to get by in the refugee camp in Djibouti. But when she had the opportunity to receive livelihood assistance, she had an idea, which turned out to be very good business.


“I fled because of fighting, but when I arrived here, the struggle did not end. It was very hard. For the first many years I wished nothing more than to be able to return home.”

Hawa came to Djibouti in 1990. She still lives here in the Ali Addeh refugee camp, which is  home to around 15.000 people. Most are from Somalia, but a small group of them are from Hawa’s home country of Ethiopia. Like today, there were limited opportunities for building a life in the camp, which is situated in the Southern part of the country far from most things surrounded by a red landscape of cliffs, where almost nothing grows.

“Every day was a struggle. But thanks to God I received help from the Danish Refugee Council.”


Hawa is telling her story in her little shop, which is situated in the middle of the camp on a small shopping street, where a string of small shops sell groceries. She was given a grant by the Danish Refugee Council through a livelihood program funded by UNHCR, so she could open such a shop. But Hawa had another idea.

“I could see that there were already many grocery shops here. But no one was selling clothes. So I exchanged the sacks of flour and beans I had been given for nice women’s clothes I could see there was a need for such a shop.”

Today Hawa’s shop is not the only one in the camp specializing in clothes, but hers is the oldest and has the best selection, she underlines. The small, blue container is full of colorful clothes and it sells very well. The shop has created a great difference in her life, she says.


“I no longer have to survive only on the rations. Of course I cannot eat meat every day now, but I am doing much, much better.”

”I have many hopes for the future, but I cannot do much, because I am an old lady. But I still have hope. The Danish Refugee Council taught me how to do be a businesswoman and this has given me ambitions to do more. I would like to become a ‘big trader’, so I can help my children receive an education. I do not wish for them to lead the hard life that I have brought them into. I want a better life for them.”