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A good way of planning the supply movement of a distribution is to roll back the time required for preparation based on an expected day of distribution.

How many days for preparation and delivering the supplies to the distribution site?What’s the transportation time between the main warehouse and the field location?How long does it take to source the item? Are they available in the market?

Thus, if a distribution is intended on the day D, logistics should trigger the reception

 D – (2days) – (5days) – (15days) = 22 days in advance.

Pragmatism is essential, but problems may arise when the original technical principles are forgotten. (see Principles in Definition)


  • How much responsibility is appropriate/efficient/worthy to give to the beneficiaries themselves?
  • What kind of resources (i.e., time, space, staff, financial resources) are available to set up and run the system?

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Other key aspect to take in consideration when deciding the approach and setting up a sound distribution system is the access.

Access includes a variety of considerations including how individuals are informed about the distribution, how they will get to the distribution site, how they will transport the aid back to their homes, whether they will feel secure getting to and moving within the site, and whether they know how to use the aid provided. A critical element of ensuring access is the dissemination of information. Beneficiaries must be continuously and directly informed, not just through community leaders, about the distribution process and their entitlements as recipients of humanitarian aid.

Sites should also be established in a way that minimizes the number of people who are attending a distribution at any one point, as this can be a critical element of crowd control and in ensuring equitable access to humanitarian aid. One way of avoiding large crouds  is to call different communities on different days; another way is to create multiple distribution points to be managed simultaneously. An organization’s decision in this regard should be based on a variety of factors as detailed below:


Few distribution points

Many distribution points


  • Need less staff
  • Less infrastructure, sites, distribution structures, roads
  • Less transport required for distribution
  • Fewer crowd control problems
  • Easier access for women
  • Shorter journeys home
  • Beneficiaries can see the distribution taking place
  • Special arrangements easier


  • Longer journeys to the households
  • Potential crowd problems
  • Difficult for beneficiaries to see the distribution
  • Difficult access for weaker groups
  • More staff and transportation needed
  • More structures, roads, access, cleared sites needed for distribution



A range of factors will determine the location and number of distributions centers. They include the number of refugees and the number at each site, their locations and the distance between each location, and the availability and location of resources (warehousing and means of transport).


Ideally, distribution points should be located far away from crowded areas such as markets or hospitals, in enclosed areas such as schoolyards that enable the distribution team to control entry and exit, and avoid over-crowding. In lieu of this, distribution teams can also create their own enclosed sites with stakes and rope or other local materials; in these cases aid agencies may have to invest in additional crowd-control staff to ensure order within the site. Distribution points should never be in the vicinity of military barracks or facilities, nor should they be in locations that force beneficiaries to travel to or through highly militarized areas.



Distribution Sites

Distribution sites must be constructed in such a way that distributions and the collection of commodities can be carried out safely, efficiently and in an orderly way.


  • Separate entry and exit points;
  • A waiting area (a place in which people can wait before being called for distribution)
  • A separate entrance and waiting area for vulnerable and PSN cases, assuring a protection presence to help identify them and provide referrals;
  • A registration area
  • A handover area where people receive items
  • A storage area for the commodities and equipment (permanent buildings, tent, lorry or clearly marked open space).
  • Staff facilities: latrines and source of water, but also a rest area for a 10-minute break away from the crowd and sheltered from sun or cold.
  • Population facilities: latrines, water, covered resting space
  • The presence of a complaints desk, if this is the chosen method for dealing with complaints;

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Some of the main characteristics include:


Sufficient commodities for the distribution are pre-positioned in the distribution enclosure the day before distribution. The pre-positined quantities are based on prior calculations considering number of beneficiaries to be served and the ration agreed upon. Up to 5% extra commodities should be pre-positioned to allow for damages and short-weight.

Communicating with


Beneficiaries and


Host Communities

Providing the intended beneficiary population with full information before distribution Is the key to a successful, problem-free distribution.


The team leader must to ensure that everyone involved in the distribution knows their roll, what is expected from them, and have an enough knowledge about the exercise itself. A briefing to the core team is mandatory, and detailed briefings should be given toto specific staff, such as those persons involved with crow control, registration team, or complaint mechanism.

The Shelter Cluster has developed a check list as a guide:

Checklist for the Day Before the Distribution

The team leader should brief the core distribution team on the following-:

  • The number and type of items to be distributed per household;
  • Each team members’ specific role during the distribution;
  • The distribution process (a walk-through of the site);
  • The start and end times each day, as well as any breaks (i.e. lunch), as agreed beforehand;
  • The complaints mechanism ;
  • How issues or concerns should be raised throughout the day;
  • Means for feedback on the process; e.g. evening meetings to discuss how the distribution is going, any issues, gaps, etc.

Adapted from Shelter Cluster

Ensure organizers have the necessary enrollment lists for the first day of the distribution.


In the aftermath of a distribution, it is essential that a distributing organization report internally and externally on the intervention and its results, allowing other actors to know that the needs in an area have been covered and avoid duplications. In general, every report should include information on which commodities were distributed, in what quantities, to which populations, in which areas, and in what time period. If all of the needs of the community were not met during the exercise, the distribution organization is requested to include the percentage of total needs met. Lastly, any problems that occurred during the distribution should be noted, particularly if they may impact the ability of partners to operate in the area moving forward. Photos with captions should be attached to the report, where possible

In order to consolidate the different reports is a good practice to agree and use the same template every time. The Shelter Cluster designed one that contains the following information based on UNHCR templates:



Distributing organization

Fill in the name of the organization that organized the distribution.

Site(s) and location

Fill in the name of the distribution site (e.g. Name of a School) and its location (governorate, district, village/neighborhood)

Date(s) of distribution

Give the exact dates of the distribution, inclusive (e.g. January 4-7, 2017)

No of beneficiaries

Give the total number of beneficiaries served through the intervention, disaggregated by gender and age.


Specify what each household was meant to receive, including whether different packages were delivered to different sized families (e.g. 3 blankets/family of 6, 1 bar of soap/person)

Initial stock count

Give the number of items delivered at the outset of the distribution, listed by item (e.g. 1,000 blankets, 1,000 mattresses, etc.)

Stock distributed

Give the total number of items distributed, listed by item (e.g. 850 blankets, 850 mattresses, etc.)

Remaining stock count

Give the number of remaining items, if any, listed by item (e.g. 150 blankets, 150 mattresses, etc.). Ideally, this number will equal the initial stock count minus the stock distributed.

Percentage of needs covered

Give an estimation of the needs covered. If there was a shortage of stock, then this number will be below 100%. Similarly, if there are new arrivals, the team might note that the needs as per the assessment have been covered but that new needs have arisen.

Distribution approach

Detail how the distribution was set up and managed.

Problems encountered during the distribution

List any problems encountered during the distribution such as fraud, issues of access, claims of exclusion, etc.

Plan for follow-up

List any actions that the organization plans to undertake in the aftermath, e.g. a PDM or a follow-up distribution to account for new arrivals.


Following the full closure of a distribution, distribution organizations may want to start thinking about conducting a post-distribution monitoring (PDM) exercise in order to assess the effectiveness, appropriateness and coverage of the intervention, and overall satisfaction with the assistance provided. Ideally, PDMs should evaluate a single response about a month after the intervention occurs. This allows time for beneficiaries to use the items provided and give useful feedback on quality, account for the possibility that the recipients of aid might have moved.


  • Affected people: IDPs, returnees, host communities or other potential recipients of aid.
  • Distributing agency: Agency, NGO or any of kind of partner conducting the distribution.
  • Contributing Organization: Agency contributing with stock, funds, or other kind of support to the distribution.
  • Government authorities: local or national authorities covering the area of intervention.
  • Cluster: coordinating body that can assist in the organization of the intervention.

The roles and responsibilities of each of these key actors may include:


Roles and Responsibilities

Affected people

  • Assistance in distribution planning.
  • Assistance in the identification of people at risk.
  • Establishment of committees with adequate representation of women.
  • Information-sharing on the specific concerns of different groups.
  • Dissemination of information on the commodities and the distribution process and system.
  • Crowd control at the distribution site and other casual labor for distribution related activities.
  • Assisting vulnerable members of the displaced population

Distribution Agency

  • Establishment of distribution site and distribution-related processes.
  • Dissemination of information to affected populations.
  • Management and equitable distribution of relief commodities using the appropriate distribution system.
  • Participation, inclusion, safety, and accountability in the distribution process.
  • On-site monitoring of distribution processes.
  • Reports on quality, quantity and impact of commodity distributions.

Contributing organization

  • Movement of stocks to the field for distribution (if applicable).
  • Provision of funds or other types of support for the intervention.
  • Guidance on technical issues where appropriate, e.g., protection referrals.
  • Monitoring the distribution program and reporting to donors and governments as relevant.

Government authorities

  • Security and the creation of safe spaces for distribution.
  • Creation of initial beneficiary lists in consultation with communities (when appropriate).
  • Free and safe access of relief personnel to beneficiaries and of beneficiaries to aid.
  • Consultations on distribution set up, approach, and process.
  • Relevant permissions.


  • Coordination of the distribution and support for additional capacity if needed.
  • Advocacy around access.
  • Receipt and review of distribution reports.
  • Information management
  • Creation of intersectoral coordination spaces.

Adapted from Shelter Cluster

Distribution committees

To assure the affected population involvement in the process and guarantee that its participation is efficient and effective, a best practice has shown to be the creation of distribution committees. Distribution committees tend to work better in stable environments, should ideally reflect the ratio of men and women in the population, and all population groups should be represented. Committees can meet both before and after distributions, where all issues related to distribution should be discussed freely inside the committee and brought to the appropriate agency’s attention. These committees will act as a link between the agency in charge of the distribution and the affected population, helping to: