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Short for Non-Food Items:  Any non-food article, tool, utensil or other item which contributes to the physical and/or psychological health of populations.


Short for People with Specific Needs: People that we can expect could have special needs are particularly older people, small children, those with impaired mobility or breastfeeding mothers among others that could require any other special assistance or at risk.


A set of items used for a particular purpose or activity, generally package and/or distributed together.


A term applied to food and non-food items given in mass distribution.


Short for "Heads of family:  a Family", defined as a member of a household that represents it.


A social unit composed of individuals, with genetic or social relations among themselves, under one head or leader, living under the same roof, eating from the same pot and sharing a common resource base.


Short for "Extended Delivery Point".


Short for Internal Displaced Population.


The objective of every distribution is to mitigate the impact ion on individuals after or during a crisis by providing the means to preserve their health and ensure their welfare, safety and dignity.

Physical distribution is the final step , the last mile for of a product before reaching the final user. This , however the process depends entirely on previous activities, . This might include decisions about what to procure and how much, the transportation, storage and even packaging. It is essential to know as much detail as possible on how any given distribution is going to run to anticipate the possible constrains and challenges and establish corrective measures to mitigate them.


Although every distribution should vary willy according to the context and local /moment specifics, there are certain principles which that apply to all distributions.

  • All distribution should be fair, equitable, regular, accountable, and transparent. Beneficiaries should know the rations they are entitled to, the method of distribution, and the distribution schedule. The more transparent the system, the fewer the opportunities for abuse leading to unfair distribution practices. Those who distribute should be accountable to the beneficiaries as well as to the grant foundersdonors.
  • All distributions involve coordination, logistics, monitoring, and reporting, which are carried out by a range of actors; including the government, UN agencies, NGOs, local partners and the beneficiaries. Good management therefore requires appropriate allocation of responsibilities between the different actors, and authority and decision-making must be clearly defined.
  • A single controlling authority should be responsible for policy matters, determining overall priorities. Mechanisms for information exchange and coordination between all actors must be well planned. Coordination committees composed of all major actors are necessary both at national level for policy and planning, and in major operational areas for operational decisions.
  • There are common elements in the implementation, which include the estimation of beneficiary numbers, selecting the type of recipients, type of beneficiary documents, determining the physical organisation of food distribution, as well as monitoring.
  • Information on the beneficiary population is essential for designing a distribution system. No distribution can start without an estimate of the size of the population. The size of the population also influences the choice of recipient and the physical organisation of the distribution, such as the number of distribution points. Knowledge of the sociopolitical context is crucial in deciding who manages the distribution, or who should be the recipient of aid, and whether registration by beneficiaries is adequate.
  • Beneficiary participation should be encouraged, which can vary from programs where be especially varied depending on if the community manages the entire program or parts of it. Committees are often recommended to provide a forum for discussion or information on the distribution.
  • Access and Protection protection matters must to be consider considered at any every stage of the distribution process, form from the design of the intervention to the actual handover to beneficiaries, allocating resources and means to these matters. They should be part of the evaluation and reports.


Cash/ Voucher interventions has have unique considerations to be taken into account that are not the purpose of this guide. Information about Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) can be found through The Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) network.

Distribution Methodologies

Depending on who manage the distribution, we can find Generally speaking there are three different methodologies , that differ on the approach, the means and objectives, while sharing the same goal, to save lives and alleviate the suffering of the crisis affected population. The information in this guide, focused on the physical distribution, can be for manging distribution, and while each share the same ultimate goal they have different approaches, methods and objectives. This guide can be used by all the possible actors involved in a distribution, but it is though with assumption assumed that the distribution is will managed by an agency or one of its partners (NGO, governmental, local or international).

Government-Managed Distribution

The government may at different levels may be the receptor receiver and distributor to affected communities or families making use of goods, using or coordinating with local government or public distribution systems. For agencies involved in distribution,  “maximum use should be made of existing organisations and structures within the affected localities, with adaptations and redeployment as necessary” (WFP, 1991). However, Government intervention frequently involves mechanisms for ensuring price stabilisation, such as sales sale of food through public distribution systems or subsidised food or NFI sales through fair price shops than . Sale of commodities may be preferential  to large-scale free distribution which usually is distributed to selected vulnerable groups through schools, social welfare, clinics, etcor other common coordination mechanisms.

The extent of government involvement in relief operations varies considerably from one emergency situation to another. Whereas in some countries the emergency response could be entirely in the hands of the government, in many others, with less capacity the role of government has often been limited to coordinationother governments with lower capacity may be less or completely not involved.

Community-Managed Distribution

A variety of distribution methods have been termed "community-managed distribution". In some , cases of community-managed distribution all aspects of food the distribution process are managed by the community, whereas in others , the community participates but only manages part of the program.

  • In entirely community managed programs, traditional leaders register beneficiaries and distribute food items to families according to their perception of need.
  • In partly community managed programs, community representatives manage one aspect of the program or participate through committees. For example, an agency may register beneficiaries and monitor, whilst the community distributes. Alternatively, community representatives may register beneficiaries and the an aid agency distributes. Committees In both cases, committees may participate in planning and monitoring the distribution.

Agency-Managed Distribution

Commodities An agency-managed distribution process entails commodity distribution direct to families or individuals by an agency or a trusted partner organisation. Agency-managed distribution requires registration of beneficiary families, sometimes limited to beneficiary lists, but often linked with the issuing of ration cards. A family member will  collect the ration at a distribution site, where the family ration is weighed, measured may need to present a ration card, ID or some other form of biometric information, and collect the distributed item. The item is usually, measured, weighed or counted by agency staff , after presentation and verification of the ration match the entitlement and distribution plan. 

Many variations on agency-managed distribution systems are possible. In the absence of a registration, a A compromise between what is ideal and what is possible may have to be made if no registration is possible. 

Types of Distributions

The context in which each distribution takes place, the geographic and cultural factors, the type of emergency, the vulnerabilities present in the population, as well as the products to be distributed and the own resources available, among other factors, involve decisions on the choice of the type of distribution that best suits to achieve the objectives.