Cover Image
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
close this folderI. Overview
View the document1.1 Definition of distribution
View the document1.3 Food and non-food items
View the document1.4 Programme planning questions
close this folderII. GETTING STARTED
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.3 Beneficiary ration/registration cards/kits4
View the document2.4 By whom
View the document2.5 Where - How many distribution points, their location
View the document2.7 Equipment for distribution
View the document3.1 The framework - an overview
View the document3.2 Advantages and disadvantages of the three categories of distribution
View the document3.3 Choosing the system
View the document3.5 How to distribute through groups of heads of families (one method)
View the document3.6 How to distribute through individual heads of family (three methods)
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
View the documentV. MANAGEMENT
close this folderVI. SPECIAL ISSUES
View the document6.1 Common questions
View the document6.2 How much to distribute when numbers are not agreed?
View the document6.3 When you do not have enough to go around
View the document6.4 Trading rations
View the document6.6 Payment in kind
View the document6.7 Retroactive distribution
View the document6.8 Sacks and other empty containers
close this folderAnnex 1 - Reporting on Food Distribution
View the document1. Food Distribution Monitoring Report (Food 1)
close this folderAnnex 2 - Reporting on Non-Food Items Distribution
View the document1. Non-Food Item Distribution Report (NFI. 1)
close this folderAnnex 3 - Reporting on Food Distribution
View the documentWorksheet for on Site Food Distribution Monitoring Report
View the documentExplanatory Notes
View the documentAnnex 4 - Household Monitoring Report
close this folderAnnex 5 - Post Distribution Monitoring
View the documentMarket Survey Report Form
View the documentAnnex 6 - Bibliography



This term covers both food and non-food items given in mass distribution to the refugees.

Distribution Cycle

The time period between regular distributions.


A group of people living together, related by blood or otherwise and recognised by the society as a family.


A group of people living together who pool their resources. They may or may not be members of the same family.

Head of Family

The person accepted by the family and by the society as representing that family within the society. The head of family can be female or male.

Head of household

The person accepted by the household and by the society as representing that household within the society. The head of household can be female or male.

Ration Shop

A form of distribution to individual heads of family.


The word “Refugee” is used throughout this guide when referring to beneficiaries. However the principles outlined can be applied to returnees, internally displaced people and others of concern to the High Commissioner and therefore targeted in UNHCR assistance programmes.

Registration Card

A standard forgery-proof card to be issued to all heads of household/families. The uniquely numbered card allows for easy identification as well as for the distribution of food and non-food items and can be procured through UNHCR/STS in Geneva.

Scooping or Tipping

A method of approximating a given weight of food by the volume of a container.


Individuals or groups who have particular problems with fair access to commodity distribution by virtue of their physical or social status and the norms with which the refugee community treat that status.