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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 document(introduction...)
View the documentPurpose of this guide and how to use it
View the documentGlossary
View the documentKey Points
Open this folder and view contentsI. Overview
Open this folder and view contentsII. GETTING STARTED
Open this folder and view contentsIII. HOW TO CHOOSE AND SET UP A SYSTEM
Open this folder and view contentsIV. INVOLVING THOSE CONCERNED
View the documentV. MANAGEMENT
Open this folder and view contentsVI. SPECIAL ISSUES
Open this folder and view contentsAnnex 1 - Reporting on Food Distribution
Open this folder and view contentsAnnex 2 - Reporting on Non-Food Items Distribution
Open this folder and view contentsAnnex 3 - Reporting on Food Distribution
View the documentAnnex 4 - Household Monitoring Report
Open this folder and view contentsAnnex 5 - Post Distribution Monitoring
View the documentAnnex 6 - Bibliography


Monitoring helps to ensure that voluntary funds provided to UNHCR are being used to best advantage.10

10 From UNHCR Manual, Chap 4, Section 6, UNHCR, December 1995.

One can only be sure that refugees are benefiting as they should from distributions if there is a systematic way of checking, i.e. monitoring/reporting. The level of monitoring should match the extent of problems which you want to detect.

The whole picture

“Monitoring is of little use unless the results can be interpreted and used as a basis for decision making and action to improve the distribution system.”

It is essential that the persons responsible for monitoring have first hand knowledge of the situation. This can be acquired by familiarity with the logistic system, on-site distribution system, frequent visits to the refugees where they live, discussions with individuals, groups and with implementing partners. This first hand knowledge is essential in interpreting the results of the formal monitoring of distribution as well as the results of other monitoring, e.g. nutrition, health and other aspects of refugee well being.

Summary of UNHCR Reporting Requirements

Report type

By Whom

To Whom



1. Food Distribution
Monitoring Reports
(Implementing partners)

Implementing Partners

UNHCR Sub/Field Office and WFP at Sub/Field Office Level

Annex 1

Emergency Daily-Weekly
Stable Monthly

2. Non-Food Distribution
Monitoring Reports
(Implementing partners)

Implementing Partners

UNHCR Sub/Field Office

Annex 2

Emergency Daily-Weekly
Stable Monthly

3. Both Food & Non-Food
Distribution Monitoring
Reports (internal UNHCR)


UNHCR HQs (Desk, copy to FSU for Food reports)

Annex 1 & 2

Emergency Daily-Weekly
Stable Monthly

4. On Site Distribution
Monitoring Report

Implementing Partners, and/or UNHCR/WFP

UNHCR & WFP Sub/Field Office

Annex 3

1-2 times per month

5. Household Monitoring Report

Implementing Partners or UNHCR

UNHCR Sub/Field Office and share with WFP

Annex 4


6. Market Survey Report

Implementing Partners or UNHCR

UNHCR Sub/Field Office and share with WFP

Annex 5


The elements of a comprehensive distribution monitoring system include:

· Logistic Monitoring
· On-site Distribution Monitoring
· Post Distribution Monitoring

Logistic Monitoring

Is there enough, where is it?

The objective of logistic monitoring is to track the quantity, quality and timeliness of the supply, transportation, storage and distribution of commodities. This function is carried out by the various agencies responsible for these activities. For example in the case of food, WFP is responsible for all reporting up to, and including, the EDP11. From the EDP onwards, UNHCR is responsible for monitoring and reporting. This is usually based on implementing partner reports.


Although the responsibility for monitoring and reporting varies, depending on the commodity and the stage in the logistics and distribution process, UNHCR must ensure that it is actively informed on the overall supply and distribution picture.

The following are report formats for Logistic Monitoring

· Food Distribution Monitoring Report (for format see Annex 1)

· Non-food Distribution monitoring Report (for format see Annex 2)

Purpose of these reports

To record what quantity of commodities were distributed to a particular population in a given period and to show what percentage of the total needs was met. It does not tell you about the equity of the distribution system. These are quantitative reports.

This report is prepared by the distribution agency and is submitted to the UNHCR Sub/Field Office. The Sub-Office consolidates the reports from several agencies and sites for onward transmission to the Branch Office. The BO in turn consolidates these reports countrywide and passes the consolidated report to the Desk at HQs. The same format should be used at all levels in the reporting chain. Reports from one level should be consolidated and passed to the next level.

The reporting format for Food and Non-Food Distribution Reporting and a guide on how to complete it is shown in Annex 1 and 2. Photocopy these and give them to the distribution agencies, set up a time table for distribution reporting, weekly, monthly etc. as the situation demands. Arrange training for implementing staff as necessary.

On-Site Distribution Monitoring

Is the right quantity getting to the right people?

The objective of on-site monitoring is to determine whether the planned number of people received the specified quantity of commodities in a certain time frame.

The following is the standard report format for On Site Distribution Monitoring

On Site Distribution Monitoring Report (Annex 3)

Purpose of this report

To record the equity of the distribution. This is a monitoring method, based on a random survey, which tests the performance of your distribution system. It checks what the beneficiaries are taking away from the distribution centre. It does not cover the part of the population without ration cards or those otherwise excluded from distributions. It does not detect people who collect multiple rations through manipulation of ration cards. This is a quantitative report.

On site monitoring makes considerable demands on time and manpower and may be implemented by an agency other than the one responsible for the distribution. It should be carried out once or twice per month. Distribution points and days should be chosen in a random way for successive surveys so as to avoid expectations of distribution staff and/or refugees affecting the results.

The appropriate report form and work sheet are provided as Annex 3, where the methodology is also explained. Photocopy these and give them to the agency concerned. Set up a monitoring schedule with them.

Post Distribution Monitoring

What is the impact?

The objective of post distribution monitoring is to assess the impact of the food and nonfood items distributed to the beneficiaries. This is done through household surveys, to assess the availability of food and non-food items/accessibility/appropriateness at the household level.

The following are standard report formats for Post Distribution Monitoring

· Household Monitoring Report
· Market Survey Report

Household Monitoring Report (Annex 4)

Purpose of this report

To assess the overall impact of the commodity distributions. This is a qualitative report.

Household monitoring will help you to assess the impact of assistance programmes and give you information enabling you to adjust or redirect the programme as necessary. Household monitoring is an integral part of the overall surveillance of any assistance...