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close this bookCommodity Distribution, A Practical Guide for Field Staff (United Nations High Commission for Refugee, 1997, 77 p.)
View the document4.1 Refugee participation
View the document4.2 The leadership may not truly represent the refugees
View the document4.3 Refugee committees
View the document4.5 Information to all the beneficiaries, the crucial factor

4.5 Information to all the beneficiaries, the crucial factor

Experience shows that one of the most important factors underlying the success of distribution systems is to ensure that all of the refugees are well informed. Otherwise, information and misinformation concerning the distribution system will circulate among the beneficiaries in a way which you cannot control, In particular, make sure that information reaches women. You must ensure that information is not monopolised and manipulated by special groups within the beneficiary population. Make sure that ordinary refugees have direct access to accurate information about the system.

Communication with beneficiaries

Set up a distribution committee to represent the refugees in discussions concerning the distribution system.

Keep in mind the cultural context but ensure that women are well represented on this committee.

Use local interpreters (women and men as appropriate) to inform refugees about distribution.

Hold community meetings in the place where the recipients are most at ease. Go to them instead of having them come to you.

Choose locations to which women have easy access.

Ask questions, listen to the answers.

Allow refugees to see commodities being measured and distributed.

Provide refugees access to measuring equipment.

Identify and create communication with specific groups which may not be well represented in the refugee leadership, women, elderly, handicapped or ethnic or social groups which may be excluded from the refugee mainstream.

Structures should be developed to allow direct communication with the mass of the beneficiaries. Field Officers should set up a schedule of regular, open, meetings with the beneficiaries so that information gets directly to the mass of the people. Information filtered through the leadership alone may be distorted. Even in the best functioning distribution system there will be complaints. Provide channels for these, and act quickly on those that are well founded.


Posters are one means of informing the refugees of their entitlements. This is particularly important in situations where the quantity or composition of the ration is changing. Posters should be designed so that they can be easily understood by the population, whether literate or not. Posters should be placed in locations where women will see them. They should be in a language and format which can easily be understood by the woman in the population. This will entail finding out which language is most easily understood by women. For example, among Rwandan refugees in Zaire, while many of the male refugees spoke French and Kiswahili, many of the women spoke only Kinarwanda. Posters should have an official stamp, or other sign of authenticity, to guard against bogus information.