3.5 Design of distribution circuits

Distribution planning should include design of distribution circuits (set-up and management of the distribution site and process). The design should consider staffing, security, number of people to be served, transparency and accountability, and speed of processing. Rapid processing is not always desirable and can be problematic, as fast-moving crowds can place pressure on staff and vulnerable groups in the population.

The arrangement of the distribution circuit must be safe and open to ensure that all transactions are transparent, visible and able to be monitored by community members, female staff and managers to avoid risks of sexual exploitation during the distribution process.

Two examples of distribution circuits are provided below. The first is a simple single circuit set-up. The second has multiple counters conducting the distributions. A circuit with multiple counters allows more people to be served on the same site, and is appropriate when food or non-food items need to be distributed rapidly to a large number of people. The multiple circuit model is only possible when beneficiary groups can be organised according to separate lists and assigned to a circuit point corresponding to the relevant list (e.g. lists cannot be copied to each circuit).

A simple but well-organised distribution circuit can serve up to 500 people per day. If the distribution is carried out via heads of household, the number of beneficiaries served can go up to 2,500 (if the average size of the family is five people). In practice, every situation is different and the number of beneficiaries that could be served in a given period of time depends on several factors:

  • quality of the communication and sensitisation conducted with the beneficiaries prior to the distribution phase
  • organisation and flexibility of the circuit: bottlenecks at posts that would slow down the flow of people need to be avoided
  • staff involved: the organisation, number, motivation and skills of the staff determine the manner in which the distribution takes place
  • presence and flow of beneficiaries: a continuous flow of beneficiaries at the entrance of the circuit is important in avoiding periods of inactivity within the circuit. The information passed on to beneficiaries (the time they have been asked to be present) as well as the information supplied on the organisation of the distribution should avoid periods of inactivity
  • type of checking on entry in the circuit: the speed of the beneficiary’s entry into the circuit is determined by the way in which the checking takes place (search for names on the list, etc.)
  • number of posts of distribution (of the type of food items to be distributed)
  • packaging the food items to be distributed (scooping as opposed to kits).