|Commodity Distribution, A Practical Guide for Field Staff (United Nations High Commission for Refugee, 1997, 77 p.)|
The Ideal Distribution System should be safe and easily accessible to the intended beneficiaries.
Safe: Organised in such a way that the system is free of threat to all who use it, with particular attention to women and the vulnerable.
Accessible: Distribution points are close to where people live and are located in places which do not restrict the access of particular groups. The timing of distributions should suit the intended beneficiaries.
· Inform the refugees. They must know what they should receive, how much, when and how. The refugees themselves can be the best monitors and controllers of the distribution process. Refugees should be able to see the distribution process for themselves. Involve them directly, don't let information on the distribution process come to them only through their leadership. Ensure the participation of the refugees (women and men) at all levels of the distribution process.
· In the early stages of an emergency there will probably be a period when it will not be possible to register or issue ration cards. However, you will have to distribute commodities in that period. Effective distribution is possible without ration cards.
· The provision of plastic sheeting, tents and other shelter material is very important for the structuring of refugee sites. The distribution of shelter material reduces the fluidity of the population. Once it is issued, the population can settle.
· The family, as a natural unit, is the target of distribution. This applies to food and non-food items. However this does not mean that you always have to hand the ration to each family directly, in some situations this can also be done more effectively through groups of families or other community structures.
· Irregularities in the distribution cycle undermine the confidence of the beneficiaries and increase their need to circumvent the system.
· In camps, aim to have at least 1 distribution site per 20,000 refugees.
· You should aim to have a distribution system which allows beneficiaries to collect rations close to where they live and at regular intervals of about one month. For dispersed populations refugees should not have to travel more than 5 to 10 km to distribution sites. In camps, refugees should not have to travel far to the distribution sites. Depending on the situation, and having met site selection criteria, the centre should be located as close as possible to the beneficiaries, and not more than 5 km away.
· Distribution of dry uncooked rations in bulk is usually the most desirable. Avoid mass cooked food distribution for the general ration.
· In your distribution system plan to have a minimum of 2 staff per 1,000 beneficiaries.
· Avoid payment in kind for distribution workers. It makes monitoring difficult. In times of shortages, vulnerable people may be deprived of the commodities in order to pay staff.
· In the early stages of a new programme, particularly in large emergencies, effective control over distribution may not be possible. However, from the start, each action you take should contribute to a process whereby stable control is progressively established.