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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
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Purpose of this guide and how to use it


This guide outlines procedures to assist UNHCR Field staff and operational partners in the design and implementation of systems for commodity distribution. Needs assessment, the planning of rations and the management of the logistics chain, up to the distribution site, are not covered.

Assistance operations rarely fit textbook models. Though there may be broad agreement on what the response should be, there are always factors which stand in the way of the ideal. Problems are often situation specific so, it is only through Field level intersectorial cooperation that an agreed appreciation of the constraints can be built up and optimal compromises found. Therefore this guide does not provide simple prescriptive recipes which can be used in all situations, but rather a framework for making the right decision in each situation.

How to use this guide

This guide will help you by pointing out issues which are important. It offers techniques and ideas based on best current practice which must be adapted to the particular circumstances of your operation. It does not present a set of rules and procedures which must be followed, except in the case of the reporting requirements.

As soon as possible, you should read through the entire guide in order to become familiar with the ideas and experience it presents. However, to use it in any refugee situation, you should read:

Key points (p.7)
Choosing a system (p. 21)

This guide should be read in conjunction with other UNHCR policy papers, guidelines and manuals which impact on the area of distribution management. Of particular importance are the UNHCR/WFP Memorandum of Understanding on the Joint Working Arrangements for Refugee, Returnee and Internally Displaced Persons Feeding Operations, Geneva March 1997, Registration - a practical guide for field staff, UNHCR Geneva 1994, UNHCR Policy on Refugee Women, UNHCR Geneva and Refugee Children, Guidelines on Protection and Care, UNHCR, Geneva 1994. Please refer to the bibliography in Annex 6.

This guide was produced through a process of consultation with organisations directly involved in commodity distribution, principally WFP the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and NGO implementing partners of UNHCR. The inputs of these organisations are gratefully acknowledged.

In using this guide those actually involved in commodity distribution will see ways to improve it based on field experience. Suggestions for improvements to this guide based on this will be welcomed and can be incorporated into the revision planned for 1998. Suggestions should be addressed to the Head of the Food and Statistics Unit, PCS, Division of Operational Support, UNHCR, Geneva, e-mail