4. Targeting

Distribution can be done in two ways: either blanket distribution, covering all affected population, or targeted distribution, covering the most affected people within an affected community. Blanket distribution normally done when the entire community is affected by disasters and they are all in need of immediate assistance, while targeted distribution is done to assist a selected number of people who are the most affected within their community. Targeting is always done through specific criteria applied to differentiate the most affected from the generally affected population.


Targeting is the means by which those eligible to receive distributed goods or commodities are distinguished from others in the population. Funding considerations play an important role in determining the size and scope of CARE’s intervention, and by extension the selection or targeting of recipients.

In an emergency situation involving refugees or internally displaced populations, the targeting criteria are fairly straightforward, as the total population is generally eligible for relief assistance.

  • When disaster-affected populations are integrated into local communities, both the displaced population and the local (host) population can be considered affected by the emergency. Targeting only the displaced population can lead to tensions among the two communities, as local residents see the displaced getting assistance while their own quality of life deteriorates.
  • When disaster-affected populations are living in host population households, consider targeting the host family (with at least a half ration/benefit) taking into account their settled status, and access to resources and income.

In stable situations, targeting criteria are based on some parameter of vulnerability determined by the donor or CARE, preferably in close coordination with the recipient population. Once criteria are determined and documented, those individuals or households best meeting them are identified.

There are several mechanisms for such identification including community-based targeting (community members decide themselves who best meets criteria), administrative targeting (local authorities make the selection decisions), self-targeting (most commonly used in food-for-work programmes) and combinations of these mechanisms.

Each mechanism has advantages and disadvantages. Issues to keep in mind when selecting a mechanism are:

  • administrative targeting mechanisms may require individuals to state information about their assets. Such public statements can be perceived as intrusive and potentially undermine social structures
  • in conflict situations, it is essential to understand the nature and source of the conflict, and how this might influence community and administrative decisions
  • where assistance is targeted through local clan systems, people who fall outside such systems (e.g. displaced individuals) are likely to be excluded
  • self-targeting can sometimes exclude certain vulnerable groups
  • attempts to target certain vulnerable groups (for example, people living with HIV/AIDS) should not add to any stigma already experienced by these groups. Confidentiality must be observed at all times
  • households with malnourished children are often targeted for selective or supplemental food assistance. This may encourage parents to keep their children thin so that they continue to receive rations.

For further information see:

  • Sphere Common Standard 4: Targeting
  • Sphere Food Aid Management Standard 3: Distribution.
  • Targeting criteria are clearly defined, documented in programme proposals and widely shared with both recipient and non-recipient populations. Criteria do not discriminate on the basis of gender, disability, or religious or ethnic background; nor do they undermine the dignity and security of individuals, or increase their vulnerability to sexual or other exploitation or abuse.
  • In no case are recipients excluded from receiving goods or commodities because of inability to make a contribution to CARE for any purpose.
  • Targeting mechanisms are agreed among the affected population (including representatives of vulnerable groups) and other appropriate actors, and stated in programme proposals. Targeting mechanisms do not undermine the dignity and security of individuals, or increase their vulnerability to sexual or other exploitation or abuse.
  • The method of distributing goods to recipient populations is designed in consultation with local groups, partner organisations and the recipient groups as part of programme development. The method of distribution is responsive, transparent, equitable and appropriate to local conditions.