1. Introduction

Distribution is the process of delivering relief items -including food, non-food items and cash-to disaster-affected communities. CARE’s management of the distribution process should be safe, fair, accountable and effective. The overall distribution process includes registration, site selection, distribution planning, site security, the distribution of goods to beneficiaries, distribution monitoring and post-distribution monitoring. Gender considerations should be seriously applied throughout the distribution process. Community members, and in particular women, should be closely involved in all stages of the distribution process.

Distribution covers number of sectors beside food, including but not limited to Non-Food items such as shelter materials, WASH and hygiene kits, seeds and tools, cash and vouchers, other livelihood items etc. CARE has its own cash and voucher distribution/management guidelines and should be utilized when conducting cash and voucher distribution activities. The distribution system described below is more appropriate for food and non-food items. The number of staff needed to conduct effective distributions depends on the size of the recipient community, the quantity and type of goods and commodities, the context under which distribution will take place, duration and the frequency of distributions. At a minimum, sufficient numbers of staff are required to cover the following tasks:

  • Distribution management:
    • Identification of recipients, their numbers, locations, needs…etc.
    • Periodic recipient verification
    • Coordination with recipient community, including local authorities
    • Preparation of distribution site based on the quantity and type of commodities
    • Adequate security and crowd control arrangement
    • Tallying recipients upon entering distribution site
    • Distribution of ration cards or other similar means to be used for receipt of commodities
    • Punching ration cards
    • Scooping/distributing goods or commodities
    • Verifying receipt as recipients exit distribution site
    • Registering complaints and/or providing help desk services
    • Distribution report preparation
  • Stock management:
    • Identifying and training a staff/community committees to receive commodities at distribution sites
    • Documentation of receipt of goods and commodities at distribution site
    • Loading, unloading and movement of goods and commodities
    • Documentation of transport or on-site losses
    • Physical custody, inventory accounting, proper storage and monthly reporting on stock (if goods and commodities are stored at distribution site).

It is recommended to have a clear organizational chart with specific positions, line management and clear roles and responsibilities for each position.

Every effort must be made to involve recipient communities in distribution management, especially in the following roles:

  • Identification and registration of needy people and their specific needs
  • Coordination with recipient community
  • Preparation of distribution site
  • Security and crowd control
  • Registering complaints and/or providing help desk services
  • Loading, unloading and movement of goods and commodities.
  • Trouble shooting and problem solving

Women should be represented on any community distribution committee and included in the management of the distribution. CARE staff must determine the role of women in the context of their community, and plan for women’s participation in the fullest and most equitable manner possible.

Always involve local community leaders in distributions and problem solving. This will promote transparency, facilitate immediate resolution of any community issues that may arise, and reduce possibilities of subsequent claims of improper procedures.

Avoid payment in kind (in food) for distribution staff or casual labourers.

See Annex 19.1 Terms of Reference Distribution Manager.

Distribution of relief items introduces powerful resources into the community that can be misused and abused. Distributions can increase the protection risks to vulnerable groups-in particular a heightened risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, and gender-based violence. Perpetrators can be from the beneficiary group or other public in the area, community leaders, or humanitarian staff.

Humanitarian staff in particular is in a position of power, and must be carefully managed and monitored to ensure they do not abuse their position of power and that beneficiaries are protected. Consequently, it is essential that all distribution planning and implementation activities take concrete measures to prevent and respond to increased risks of sexual exploitation, abuse, gender-based violence and other protection risks that may be linked to distribution activities. This area has to be taken seriously by leadership and management and should emphasized to all involved at early stages of any distribution. For more information, see Chapter on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Chapter 32 Quality and Accountability. The following checklist provides some practical concrete measures that must be implemented to reduce such risks.


All registration and distribution activities must ensure that:

  • women, men, girls, boys and other people with special needs from the community are actively involved in the distribution planning, in particular in site selection and timing
  • women are actively employed in the registration and distribution process including as registration officers, drivers, distribution officers, tally clerks and monitors
  • all staff sign a code of conduct, and activities are to provide orientation and awareness to all staff involved in distributions on prevention of sexual exploitation. Complaints against staff are investigated and disciplinary measures are implemented when required
  • both women and men receive clear information about their entitlements including type and quantity of items they should be receiving; and when, where and how distributions will take place
  • confidentiality during registration is assured, especially for vulnerable groups including female-headed households
  • complaints mechanisms are in place including an appropriate system for investigating and addressing complaints. Consider including accountability information, including how to complain on the ration card
  • a referral system for reporting and responding to security incidents during distributions is operational
  • distribution sites, times and travel routes are safe and accessible for women and men, boys and girls of different age groups and backgrounds
  • the distribution circuit is designed in a way that ensures open, transparent and safe distributions
  • distributions are conducted at times that allow people to travel and reach home in daylight
  • monitoring takes place by both CARE staff and community representatives, particularly by women
  • programme monitoring assesses the impact of distribution activities on women and identifies any protection risks.
  • Where online platforms like LMMS and SCOPE exists for registration, distribution, and capturing beneficiary complaints, then Country Offices are encouraged to utilise them because of their efficiency and effectiveness.