Cover Image
close this bookCommodity Distribution, A Practical Guide for Field Staff (United Nations High Commission for Refugee, 1997, 77 p.)
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

2.7 Equipment for distribution

Non-food items usually need little or no equipment for distribution. Food, however, may need various items of equipment.


Scooping gives scope for significant variation in the weight of portions measured out. The basic problem is that food rations are calculated by weight but scooped by volume. The actual weight of the food delivered will depend on whether the scoop is filled below or level with the top, or the food is piled high to overflow. Even a small amount of under scooping can result in a significant total amount of food being misappropriated. Scooping is also very staff and supervision intensive. Even when closely supervised, it provides an easy opportunity for cheating.

Scooping (sometimes called “tipping”), i.e. measuring of individual rations, by volume, using containers is often seen as the natural way to ensure fairness in distribution. This can be a dangerous assumption as there are many difficulties associated with this method. Scooping has even been described as “a notorious means for cheating the beneficiaries”.

The composition and quantity of the individual ration may change considerably from one distribution to the next depending on food supply. The same volume measuring cups will give different weights of, for example, cereals, depending whether the cereal is maize, sorghum etc. whole grain or milled. Different shipments of the same commodity may have a different weight to volume ratio.

Scooping can be used when bulk distribution is not possible. Provision of scoops is a UNHCR responsibility. When scoops have to be used they should be standard, marked with the commodity and weight, regularly checked and provided from a central source. The team of scoopers should include adequate proportions of women and men, should be rotated randomly between distribution points and should be chosen at random just prior to the distribution.

Weighing scales

These should be available at each distribution point in order to carry out spot checks on unit weights. Scales capable of weighing up to 100 Kg are needed.

Scales should also be available at distribution points for use by the refugees to check the weights of their own rations, these scales should be suitable for the convenient weighing of the ration distributed.

Other equipment related to food preparation/consumption

The provision of non-food items essential for the preparation and consumption of food such as fuel, grinding equipment, cooking utensils and stoves will influence, substantially, the amount of time and labour spent by women in food preparation and should therefore receive priority.