Key Issues

Roles and Responsibilities

At the outset of an emergency, the context, urgency and available response capacities will dictate who will take responsibility for food and NFI assistance. Depending on the pace at which humanitarian agencies arrive, as well as the size of the camp, the Camp Management Agency may have to, at least initially, assume the lead role as the food and NFI service provider. If cash and vouchers transfers are used, expertise on these modalities is required. At a later stage it may be more appropriate to hand over this responsibility to other agencies with expertise in distributions. Where the Camp Management Agency is not acting as the food and NFI service provider directly, it is still required to monitor the residents’ needs and advocate for adjustment of the food and NFI assistance if necessary.

It is essential to clearly define and formalise the roles and responsibilities of the Camp Management Agency and the partner agencies involved in food, cash, vouchers or NFIs and exactly specify responsibilities. The level of formality of any written agreements will vary in different contexts and this may involve preparing a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The following are general guidelines for the service providers or for the Camp Management Agency if in charge of in-kind, cash and voucher transfers for food and NFIs:

  • Set up Distribution Committees among the camp population and ensure they are consulted and informed about transfer modalities, cash and vouchers transfer values and food basket.
  • Set up a registration and/or ration card system before the distribution takes place. Assistance providers may have a standard database which can be adapted to the local context.
  • Ensure that the camp population is informed about distribution points and times, locations of shops and financial service providers and changes in the food basket or NFIs.
  • Establish a complaints mechanism to ensure accountability and deal with problems including cases of fraud, theft, exploitation or abuse.


Various Entry Points for Complaints

Complaints mechanisms can take a variety of forms. To be fully effective, there is usually a need for a number of entry points to ensure sufficient access, safety and confidentiality. These could include: desks at the distribution point and other critical places, a telephone hotline, complaint boxes, empowered camp associations and/or community leaders.


  • Ensure overall coordination between the distribution agencies, camp residents and distribution committees, national authorities and local business as appropriate to ensure transparency.
  • Monitor the camp community’s needs and gaps in assistance, with a particular focus on persons with specific needs and those most at risk.
  • Coordinate the security arrangements for distributions with the relevant authorities and service providers, including UN Security and banks.
  • If possible, ensure transport for persons with specific needs or those at risk if distribution is far from their residences
  • Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for carrying out distributions.
  • Establish a distribution calendar that includes the day, time and any site and distribution-specific information, unless this is assessed as a risk that may attract people to the camp or rebels/bandits seeking tax/supplies.
  • Check warehousing, storage and upkeep of stockrooms as well as facilities of retailers involved in voucher redemption, to make sure that items intended for the camp population are kept safely and hygienically.
  • Establish a post-distribution monitoring system, independent of the distributors if possible, that involves the camp population so as to evaluate any weaknesses in the choice of modalities and the effectiveness and quality of items and food distributed.
  • Update and circulate demographic data on the camp population including births, deaths, new arrivals or departures and identify specific emerging needs to the distribution agencies.
  • Inform partner agencies of any changes in the population that will affect the number of commodities required for distribution.

☞ For more information on registration and profiling, see Chapter 9, Registration and Profiling.


Distribution Lists

If possible, for consistency and efficiency, apply the same distribution lists, systems and procedures for in-kind food, NFI, cash and voucher distributions.


Cash and Vouchers

Cash and voucher systems have increasingly been used as an important assistance modality in camps to provide money to people who are struggling to supply food and essential NFIs for their families. In areas with functioning cash-based markets they are considered as one of the best ways to meet material needs and improve livelihood outcomes.


What Are Cash and Voucher Transfers?

  • Cash transfer: assistance to persons or households in the form of cash payments or bank transfers. Recipients will then meet their own food needs in the marketplace.
  • Voucher transfer: assistance to persons or households in the form of paper or electronic entitlements which can be exchanged in shops for specific types and quantities of food. The two main types of vouchers are:
    • Commodity voucher: exchanged for fixed quantities of specified food.
    • Cash voucher: exchanged for a choice of specified food items with the equivalent cash value of the voucher.


Cash and voucher systems have the objective to increase household purchasing power and improve nutrition, while supporting local traders. However, they can potentially exacerbate protection concerns, rather than mitigate them. Food security service providers should choose cash and voucher modalities and delivery mechanisms only once they have a better understanding of household needs, market capacity, contextual dynamics and intended programme objectives. The Camp Management Agency can contribute in this analysis and advocate for the modality most suitable for the specific context.


Examples of Benefits and Risks of Cash and Voucher Modalities


  • Dignity: camp populations do not have to queue to receive assistance.
  • Empowerment: camp populations can choose directly which needs to prioritise, selecting what is most important to them. Cash can also improve the inclusion of certain household members in decision making.
  • Cost efficiency: reduction of operational costs and generally decreased rate of aid diversion or sale.
  • Multiplier effects: contribution to directly strengthen local economies, as well as benefit host communities.


  • Markets: possible negative affect to local market by causing inflation or supply shortages.
  • People (households, individuals): exacerbation of existing household tensions when there are conflicting opinions on how to spend the money.
  • Community dynamics: depending on how people are selected, possible deterioration of relations between groups benefiting from this assistance and those who do not.


Cash and voucher mechanisms involve several actors, including:

  • the camp population who needs to be consulted in order to establish suitable transfer modalities and preferred food lists
  • retailers with whom prices of food rations need to be agreed, often with the assistance and supervision of the national authorities
  • financial service providers (banks, money transfer agencies) involved in cash transfers to the camp population and reimbursement of the vendors.

The service provider will lead the whole process. The Camp Management Agency may need to help facilitate a participatory needs and sectoral assessment and discussion about the optimum cash or voucher values, the need to supplement with a food basket, selection of delivery mechanisms for cash and/or vouchers transfers while also addressing other queries from the service provider.


Clear Responsibilities for All

With cash and vouchers modalities, additional actors are involved. Agreements may need to be established with a variety of actors to ensure that responsibilities are clear.


In cash and voucher systems, monitoring and evaluation needs to be a core activity, aiming to determine how cash is spent and its impact on households, markets and communities. If monitoring and evaluation is not prioritised, cash and voucher systems can incur risks of aid diversion and magnify existing problems in assistance mechanisms. The Camp Management Agency should advocate that cash and voucher monitoring systems are able to provide feedback on camp populations' needs, vulnerabilities and coping strategies, while ensuring no harm is caused to individuals, households or markets.


Working With Distribution Service Agencies

The major food security agency in an emergency is the World Food Programme (WFP). The major suppliers of NFIs in camps include the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and national authorities. There are also national and international NGOs, local or international faith-based organisations or private foundations. Cash and vouchers have recently developed as the preferred transfer modalities, because they offer more flexibility to affected communities and support local markets. The service provider will manage the process. The Camp Management Agency may need to develop some relationships with local shop owners or vendors, financial service providers, and mobile phone companies or others involved to ensure the effectiveness of this modality.

The general responsibilities of a service provider may vary from context to context but generally comprise:

  • conducting needs and sectoral (market, retail and financial) assessments
  • making logistical arrangements, including transport
  • selecting delivery mechanism and institutions to support cash and voucher modalities
  • coordinating the delivery of food, NFIs, cash and vouchers transfers
  • warehousing and storage of items
  • managing the on-site and off-site distribution of food and NFI assistance
  • monitoring the quality of in-kind commodities through cash and vouchers in local markets and contracted shops
  • monitoring the cash transfer, voucher distribution/redemption process
  • monitoring use of cash and distributed items during and post distribution
  • ensuring the accountability of operations, including towards the people receiving assistance.

Needs and modalities assessments in new sites should be joint operations between the Camp Management Agency, camp residents, national authorities and service providers. They should cover the populations’:

  • nutritional status and dietary diversity
  • potential to increase self-reliance
  • particular needs
  • safety and dignity concerns linked to the choice of transfer modalities
  • food preferences
  • access to fuel cooking facilities
  • local market conditions
  • technical requirements for cash and voucher modalities.

Severely malnourished members of the population require specific assistance through therapeutic feeding centres and supplementary feeding.

☞ For more information on nutrition, see Chapter 16, Health and Nutrition.


Distribution Systems

Generally there are three types of distribution:

  • Groups of camp populations. This option is frequently applied in the earliest phase of an emergency with large influxes of people before registration and the issuing of ration cards. This may increase the risk of abuse and can make some individuals more vulnerable, as leaders may distribute according to their own preferences.
  • Representatives of a group of household heads who then immediately distribute to individual household heads. This system may be chosen in the transitional period between the earliest emergency phase and the formal establishment of a camp or settlement or when there is little space to distribute and only a limited number of people can be received at distribution points. This system could decentralise control and increase the level of community involvement and self-management in the distribution process if well organised and if there is robust analysis of such factors as gender inequality.
  • Individuals who act as heads of households, preferably women, unless this may give rise to protection issues. Depending on the cultural context, this is usually the preferred and most common system used once a camp is established and registration and the issuing of ration cards have taken place. Only distribution to individual household heads will make sure that all families receive their rations equitably. The direct distribution to individuals is the preferred system for cash and vouchers transfers.


Consult Women and Men

Encouraging women to represent individual households and receive food, cash, vouchers and NFIs can increase levels of food security for women and help to nourish the minds and bodies of entire families and communities. Empowering women and girls economically creates development opportunities, improves their access to resources, enhances their political voice and reduces their vulnerability to violence. However, in some cultural contexts, deliberately favouring women and reducing men’s roles could increase household tensions and expose women to a higher risk of violence. It is essential to consult with both women and men to determine the best way to organise distributions, in order not to reinforce social inequalities and support steps towards the empowerment of women, while at the same time preserving the dignity of all members of the community and not placing anyone at risk.


Importance of Complaints Mechanisms

In camps, where complaints mechanisms are not in place, camp residents, particularly females and people with disabilities, are exposed to a higher risk of being exploited or abused by staff of humanitarian organisations who may take advantage of their superior positions and demand bribes or favours in return for distributions.


Distribution Committees

Establishing distribution committees through a transparent and representative process will require a somewhat stable environment. Ideally, it ensures the participation and involvement of all the camp population. Committees should be democratically elected and made up of a representative segment of the population including a 50-50 balance of men and women. Consideration should also be given to ensuring age, ethnicity, faith and inclusion of people with special needs, such as people with disabilities.

Using distribution committees as a link between the agency in charge of distribution, the Camp Management Agency and the camp population should help to:

  • keep unrealistic expectations in check
  • enhance the overall understanding of procedures and restrictions
  • confirm receipt of feedback from the camp population on all issues related to distribution
  • ensure transparency and accountability.

To ensure that the committee is representative and functioning accountably the Camp Management Agency is required to adhere to certain standards and commitments on accountability.


Code of Conduct and Sexual Exploitation

Distribution agencies should have a code of conduct that expressly prohibits sexual exploitation and abuse of affected communities. This should be shared with communities receiving assistance in an appropriate form so that they understand expected standards of behaviour and know how to hold assisting agencies to account.


Distribution Announcements

Messages informing camp residents about modalities or the arrival and distribution of supplies should contain the basics concerning who, what, when, where and how. Pre-distribution announcements are the responsibility of the distributing agency, though the Camp Management Agency should monitor and supervise them. Distribution announcements should:

  • reach out to all different groups in the camp using multiple channels of formal and informal communication
  • use the local language and reach out also to those camp residents who are not literate
  • involve women and the camp distribution committees in order to avoid information going out only through community leaders who might have their own political agenda
  • employ different methodologies and means such as meetings with groups of camp residents including those at risk, posters and picture messages, information boards, radio, megaphone and text messaging
  • ensure older persons, persons with disability, women- and child-headed households are included
  • allow camp residents to fully understand the messages and to give feedback.


Bringing Items to the Distribution

Knowing what items, such as boxes, buckets, bags or bottles, to bring to a distribution site in order to carry away received food, can help keep order, shorten queues and maintain calm.


☞ For more details on information campaigns, see Chapter 9, Registration and Profiling.


Distributions should never coincide with national holidays in the host country or holidays or religious festivals in countries of origin of the camp population.


Organising Distribution Sites

Distribution sites must be constructed in such a way that distributions and the collection of commodities can be carried out efficiently in safety and dignity and in an orderly way. Alternative distribution models for people with reduced mobility may need to be available.

UNHCR recommends at least one distribution site per 20,000 individuals and two distribution staff per 1,000 recipients, not including monitors or security staff for food and NFI distributions. Sphere Project guidance on distribution sites is also available. Distribution sites should:

  • be centrally located within a limited walking distance to residences. Although the Sphere Project mentions ten kilometres, much greater proximity is preferable
  • be accessible for all the camp population, including those who are less mobile
  • be secure enough to ensure that items are not able to be stolen or misappropriated
  • be supervised by trained staff and organised in such a way that travel after dark can be avoided
  • not be in areas where people would have to cross military or armed checkpoints or negotiate safe passage
  • not be too close to congested areas such as open markets, clinics or places of religious observance
  • be near to water points and constructed with separate latrines for men and women
  • be large enough for on-site commodity storage and shelter for queuing during delays or rain
  • use measures to prevent, monitor and respond to incidences of gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA)
  • where appropriate, segregate men and women
  • inform all food distribution teams about appropriate conduct and penalties for sexual abuse
  • provide female guards to oversee off-loading, registration, distribution and post-distribution of food, in accordance with community requests
  • be near appropriate rest facilities for distribution workers
  • be near to vegetation or trees, which provide shade and act as windbreaks
  • have chairs or benches for those unable to stand in line
  • have an exit for trucks if goods are to be distributed immediately after delivery to the site
  • be sufficiently spacious to allow a distribution circuit through which the camp population have to pass in order to receive assistance
  • have clearly demarcated boundaries and queue systems through the use of signs or guide ropes
  • allow fast track queues, prioritising those who have been individually assessed as having specific needs or those with identifiable risks and in need of a faster procedure.

These criteria should be harmonised for all distributions and be well known to the population. Distribution sites for cash and vouchers should be:

  • between three and five kilometres from the retailers engaged in voucher redemption, although there is no set standard
  • set up before market days to avoid people having to store large amounts of cash
  • ensure that banks or cash agents involved are close to people’s homes.


Camp Distribution Points

Experienced Camp Management Agencies suggest making sure that large maps of the camp distribution points are drawn and made publicly, and easily accessible for all camp residents in order to facilitate their understanding of where to go to receive different food or non-food items.

In some cases, site access for bulky items, like heavy shelter items, may need to be carefully considered and specific suitable locations identified in or around the camp.


Management of Storage Sites and Warehouse Facilities

Each agency will have their own set of forms and commodity warehousing procedures. However, the tips below will help an agency improve warehouse and storage arrangements. 

  • Wherever possible, employ a warehouse officer. This ensures appropriate division of responsibility between procurement, transportation and programme functions. In conjunction with this division of labour, limit the number of people that have keys and access to the warehouse.
  • Implement a thorough inventory management system based on way-bills, stock cards, bin cards and an inventory ledger. This can be computerised or paper-based. Management must audit it regularly.
  • Have enough staff on standby who can be mobilised at short notice for loading and off-loading of commodities.
  • Hire security staff for the warehouse. They can help make sure that other staff and stored items are not put at risk. Theft and fraud by an agency’s own staff or as a result of criminality within displaced communities often occurs in camp settings and should be dealt with promptly.
  • Ensure the warehouse is clean and, wherever possible, keep stock off the floor by using shelves or pallets. This will improve cleanliness and organisation and therefore accountability.
  • Remember that food is easily perishable and can quickly be affected by insects and rodents. Secure storage of food will likely require different and more protective measures than the storage of NFI items. Depending on what is being stored, rodent and pest control is a must. Consider getting a cat!
  • Invest in a clear and well-enforced stock-release request system. A limited number of management staff should be able to authorise the release of stock. Such a system should have clear time lines so programme staff can understand how much notice they need to give the warehouse officer before goods will be ready for pick-up.
  • Take pride in the warehouse and its staff. Wherever possible, ensure that the warehouse officer has a lockable office, on site electricity and appropriate bathroom facilities. Invest in training, backed up by impromptu stock checks. Providing support and showing appreciation of the effort put into the management of the inventory makes it more likely goods will remain in the warehouse.


Safety and Crowd Control

Distribution sites can quickly become chaotic, crowded and potentially dangerous places for field staff and the camp population. In the event of riots or demonstrations, sometimes the only solution is to evacuate staff and abandon commodities. Careful planning can prevent such situations. The following may help:

  • Analyse and know the local context, especially any existing or emerging tensions between groups within or surrounding the camp.
  • Have security personnel and/or national authorities trained and available to deal with problems if they get out of hand.
  • Advise authorities with advance details of the distribution potential risks in the lay-out of the site before the distribution or in the way the distribution is organised to help identify what changes need to be made.
  • Aim to complete distributions and return stocks within daylight hours.
  • Announce exactly which specific commodities will be distributed as early as possible. Last minute changes, particularly if the new food items have a lesser market resale value, have the potential to quickly increase tensions.
  • Ask the UN security and/or local law enforcement authority to assess the safety of distribution sites and make recommendations.

In most contexts, security during distributions will be the responsibility of national authorities and local law enforcement agencies. However, in some conflict situations, local law enforcement agencies will not be viewed as neutral by camp residents so other crowd control mechanisms may be necessary. The Camp Management Agency must have a contingency plan.


Emergency Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) During Distribution

Tensions can run high during distribution and cause violence and other security risks. The risks must be assessed in advance and steps taken to minimise them. The food and NFIs service providers in agreement and consultation with the Camp Management Agency and security actors should have a contingency plan and SOPs for riots and emergency evacuations. All staff working at distribution sites should be informed and trained on these SOPs and be prepared to evacuate the site in case of emergency.


It is also advisable to:

  • Situate the distribution sites in neutral areas not associated with any particular significant group.
  • Place a clear distance between queues of people waiting and the piles of commodities being distributed. Lining up trucks or building fences will not deter a crowd set on reaching commodities in case of a riot.
  • Designate an entrance and exit to avoid congestion in doorways/queues.
  • Build a security exit at the site for use by distribution staff only.
  • Organise the distribution in such a way that a minimum number of recipients will be present at any given time. This could be done by calling on the Camp Distribution Committee to assist, or handing out tokens that tell people at what time their distribution will occur.
  • Keep onlookers and others not involved in the distribution at a suitable distance from the entrance of the site.
  • Place sufficient crowd control staff strategically around the site.
  • Appoint one person to be responsible for security decisions on the spot. Make sure that all other staff are aware who this is and ensure s/he is easily visible.
  • Show the items that are going to be distributed to the Distribution Committee prior to the distributions, thus allowing them to support decisions to distribute the commodities and address any complaints that may arise from the camp population.
  • Show each individual the commodities being measured out.
  • Provide recipients with weighing scales and standard weights to verify that scales are accurate at the end of the distribution queue.
  • Provide staff with means of communication, such as radios or whistles to signal an emergency.
  • Treat cases of cheating or disorder quickly and fairly.
  • Move offenders away from the distribution site as quickly as possible.
  • Consider whether security personnel and/or local police need to assist in bringing cash to the camp.
  • In case of cash and transfer programmes, ideally place security staff near shops where vouchers are redeemed and/or near milling machines if present.

☞ For more information on camp safety and security, see Chapter 12, Safety and Security.


Persons With Specific Needs and Groups at Risks

The Camp Management Agency should:

  • Encourage distribution agencies, camp committees and food providers to organise special arrangements for those assessed with special needs and requiring transport. Heavy or cumbersome items can be carried from the distribution site back to individual homes with wheel barrows, donkey carts, through community support groups or appropriate transportation vouchers.
  • Establish sun and rain-protected resting places reserved particularly for older persons, small children, those with impaired mobility or breastfeeding mothers.
  • Organise priority lines for older persons and other individuals with specific needs.

☞ For more information on persons with specific needs, see Chapter 11, Protection of Persons with Specific Needs.


Reducing Gender-based Violence

The Camp Management Agency should work with distribution agencies and food providers to ensure that their approaches reduce possible GBV risks. This involves actions including:

  • Encouraging distribution agencies to actively engage women in assessments, planning and actual distribution of commodities.
  • Creating safe spaces for women and girls at distribution points and near shops for voucher redemption and identifying high-risk areas for women and girls within and surrounding the camp. When food is insufficient or lacks certain essential traditional ingredients, people will normally try to supplement their diets. Women and children venturing out for complementary food may face GBV risks. In such situations, food programmes need to be adjusted so that the food basket is more in line with traditional practices of the displaced population.
  • Taking measures to reduce the risk of GBV through complementary programming. Introducing fuel-saving stoves, promoting community patrolling or other communitybased initiatives, such as collecting water or fuel in large groups may diminish risks of GBV for women and children. Addressing security risk areas and GBV requires an inter-agency approach.
  • Organising specific training on GBV prevention principles and referral pathways for all involved, including vendors in shops for voucher redemption.

☞ For more information on gender-based violence, see Chapter 10, Gender-based Violence.


Distribution and Sexual Exploitation

There have been many field investigations documenting the links between how assistance is delivered in camp setting and risks of sexual exploitation and abuse. Making sure the camp population knows what their entitlements are and what commodities are being distributed, both within the food basket and at NFI distributions, can help prevent exploitation and abuse. In particular, displaced women and girls may not have equal access to aid or be aware of what they are entitled to. They may thus be coerced to exchange sex in return for food or NFIs. The prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation (PSEA) is a responsibility of all humanitarian sectors. The Camp Management Agency plays a key role in reinforcing this and ensuring camp management staff have training on PSEA, that all staff have been trained on codes of conduct and that there are safe and confidential reporting mechanisms in place.

☞ For more information about PSEA, see Chapter 2, Roles and Responsibilities and Chapter 10, Gender-based Violence.


Food Assistance

Food rations are usually based on the minimum calorific intake of 2,100 kilocalories per person/per day. Using these calculations, an average adult will require 560 grams of food each day. This is not applicable to cash and vouchers, as camp residents may purchase more diverse food items than traditionally distributed and therefore quantities will differ.

In protracted situations this figure is usually adjusted to suit local conditions and to take into account the population’s actual nutritional requirements and ability to access and grow its own food. The requirements of micronutrients should also be considered.

Pregnant women will need an additional 300 kcal per day as well as a balanced diet, whereas a breastfeeding woman will need an additional 500 kcal per day in order not to compromise her own or her child’s health.

Knowledge of the minimum daily food requirements will help a Camp Management Agency in the event that it is required to distribute or facilitate the ordering of food commodities. Note that a full food basket cannot always be sourced or distributed. The agreed-upon contents should be discussed with the food sector lead. Usually, items in a full food basket will contain a combination of basic food items such as:

  • fortified wheat flour, maize meal, bulgur wheat, sorghum or rice (cereals) – 420 grams/day/person
  • dried lentils or beans (pulses/legumes) – 50 grams/day/person
  • fortified cooking oil (fats) – 25 grams/day/person
  • fortified salt – 5 grams/day/person
  • fortified blended food (Corn and Soya Blend (CSB)) – 40- 50 grams/day/person. Calculated for a camp population of 10,000 people, this will give:
  • daily – 5.6 metric tons
  • weekly – 39.2 metric tons
  • monthly (30 days) – 168 metric tons (one metric ton is 1,000 kg).

Examples of daily rations for food-assistance for reliant populations is from WFP’s Emergency Field Operations Pocketbook

Food Type 1 Type 2 Type 3 Type 4
Maize meal/rice/bulgur wheat 400 420 350 420
Beans 60 50 100 60
Vegetable oil 25 25 25 30
Canned fish/meat - 20 - 30
Fortified blended food 50 40 50 -
Sugar 15 - 20 20
Salt 5 5 5 5
Total (g/day) 555 560 550 565
Nutritional value of the above rations
Energy (kcal) 2,113 2,106 2,087 2,092
Protein (g and % kcal) 58 g/11% 60 g/11% 72 g/14% 45 g/9%
Fat (g and %) 43 g/18% 47 g/20% 43 g/18% 38 g/16%


If cereals are given as grain, it is necessary to consider losses during milling, including possible payments in food made by camp residents for the milling (10/15%). It may therefore be necessary to increase the ration size. Additionally, depending on the situation, the following commodities may be distributed to the displaced population:

  • sugar
  • fortified blended food, like corn soy blend (CSB)
  • canned meat and/or fish
  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • micro-nutrients (includes vitamins and minerals).

There may also be losses during distribution when scooping is used. The Camp Management Agency should discuss with the service provider to ensure that sufficient quantities are brought to the distribution point when this method is used.


Nutritional Requirements

Baseline nutritional requirements World Health Organization (WHO): 2,100 kcal/person/day, including 10–12% of the total energy from proteins, 17% of total energy from fat and adequate micronutrient intake through fresh and fortified food.


Food Basket Monitoring and Post-distribution Monitoring (PDM)

At the time of distribution, the Camp Management Agency should make sure that the food agencies carry out food basket monitoring. This consists of selecting a random number of families at the distribution site, weighing their rations and comparing the results with the planned ration and the family size stated on their ration cards.

After a distribution, a PDM survey should be conducted by the service provider. This aims to collect information at the household level on the quantity of food received or purchased, the use of food assistance and its acceptability and quality. It could also be helpful to collect other types of information, both food related, like food consumption scores and dietary diversity, as well as health and protection. Ideally the Camp Management Agency should join this exercise.

PDM is carried out on average two weeks after a monthly distribution. PDM should include some quality and accountability indicators, in particular related to information needs, feedback on the distribution, complaints and the quality of the process.

School Feeding in Camps

Depending on needs, context and feasibility, school feeding programmes are usually recommended as a way to encourage parents to send their children to school and to encourage children to attend. School feeding programmes are also an excellent safety net as they provide an indirect income transfer to families. When food is distributed to schools for storage and preparation, there is a need to closely monitor the use of quantities. Cooks, teachers and other staff involved need to be aware that the food is meant to feed school children rather than be an additional source of income for school staff. The Camp Management Agency needs to monitor the process to ensure that food is not stolen and children are not asked to pay for meals.

Supplementary and Therapeutic Feeding Programmes

Supplementary feeding programmes (SFP) may need to be set up to prevent and to treat malnutrition by providing special nutritious food to vulnerable sections of the population, such as children, pregnant and lactating women (PLW) and those on antiretroviral treatment (ART) or a Tuberculosis Direct Observed Therapy Short-course (DOTS). Blanket supplementary feeding targeted to children and potentially PLW should be implemented to prevent an increase in acute malnutrition. Therapeutic feeding programmes (TFP) aim to reduce mortality by providing individual treatment for those who are severely malnourished.

In situations where food is scarce, supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes are not always understood by all of the camp population. Such programmes may worsen the situation for children whose parents feel that they already get enough to eat at a clinic and do not have to receive food at home. To avoid more critical nutrition problems in the camp, the Camp Management Agency must ensure that the aim of supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes and eligibility criteria, are widely and well understood.

☞ For more information on malnutrition, see Chapter 16, Health and Nutrition.


Exclusive Breastfeeding Techniques

Exclusive breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby under six months old. Babies who are exclusively breastfed receive no pre-lactates (formula or other milk products), water, tea or complementary foods. Where the rate of exclusive breastfeeding is typically low there may be requests by the camp population for milk powder or other formula substitutes. It is important to work with health and nutritional service providers to promote and support exclusive breast- feeding techniques.


Non-food Items (NFIs)

Shelter materials, water containers, clothing, bedding materials, kitchen sets, culturally appropriate women’s sanitary materials and other NFIs are essential commodities to meet immediate personal needs.

Identifying the needs, gaps and access to NFIs is one of the primary responsibilities of a Camp Management Agency. Where resources are scarce and do not cover the needs of the entire population, distributions for persons with specific needs must be prioritised.

Wherever possible, the Camp Management Agency should aim to ensure that different service providers are procuring comparable items for distribution. If packages are perceived to be unequal there will be difficulties at distribution sites.

NFIs are sometimes distributed as part of return kits. When this is done, ensure that distribution is tied to durable and safe return processes and that reception of kits is dependent upon de-registration in the camp to ensure that households do not remain once they have received their materials.

Clothing and Bedding Material

The following recommendations are made in the Sphere Handbook:

  • Every camp resident should be provided with two full sets of clothing in the correct size. Every camp resident should have access to a combination of bedding materials, mattresses/ mats and insecticide-treated bed nets, to ensure sufficient thermal comfort, dignity, health and well-being and allow for separate sleeping arrangements as needed.
  • Infants and children up to the age of two must have a blanket of suitable quality and thermal resistance.
  • Culturally appropriate burial shrouds are provided when needed.


Additional Clothing and Bedding for People at Risk

Those individuals most at risk should have additional clothing and bedding and their priority should be ensured. This includes ill and older persons and people living with disabilities, pregnant and lactating women, children and individuals with impaired mobility.



In malaria-risk environments, treated mosquito nets should be provided to each household.


Non-food Items for Construction and Shelter

NFIs for construction and shelter include:

  • plastic sheets (tarpaulins). One of the most commonly distributed shelter materials, they can last for up to two years depending upon quality
  • tents
  • shade nets, which are sometimes used in hot climates
  • structural materials and fixings, such as wooden poles and nails
  • toolkits support, construction and maintenance.

Support will be required with tents, tarpaulins and construction materials to ensure that people, especially vulnerable people, are physically able to transport and use them. Additional support will be required to ensure that people know how to use and maintain them, and that any construction is in line with site planning.

Camp Management Angencies will need to monitor shelter quality as materials degrade with sun and use. Assessments should be conducted in the months before rainy or cold seasons. If necessary, damaged materials should be replaced.

☞ For more information on shelter construction, see Chapter 15, Shelter.

Personal Hygiene

Generally speaking each person receives once a month:

  • 250g of bathing soap
  • 200g of laundry soap
  • culturally appropriate sanitary materials for menstruating women and girls
  • 12 washable nappies/diapers (where they are commonly used) for infants and children up to the age of two.

Additional materials may be distributed depending on cultural appropriateness and availability.


Ad Hoc Donations

Charity groups or individuals sometimes donate items, such as clothing, food or even cash for distribution, among the camp population. This can cause significant challenges, particularly if there are insufficient quantities to serve all or if the items do not meet standards. The Camp Management Agency should advocate to prioritise persons or groups with specific needs. As best practice the Camp Management Agency should also encourage and facilitate community representatives to conduct these distributions in coordination with all other actors working in the camp. If not well organised, ad hoc donations may cause tensions and damage community relations.


Specific Needs

Some people with specific needs, like those suffering from incontinence or severe diarrhoea, may require increased quantities of personal hygiene items such as soap.


Eating and Cooking Utensils

Each household in a camp should benefit from distribution of:

  • a kitchen set including cooking, eating and drinking utensils. All plastic items should be of food grade plastic and all metallic utensils should be of stainless steel or alternative non-ferrous metal.
  • two 10-20 litre capacity water containers for transportation and for storage. Water collection containers should have lids, be easy to carry, even for children, and easily kept clean in order to avoid water contamination and subsequent risk of waterborne diseases.

Distributions of cooking and eating utensils should be informed by cultural practices and depend on the size of each family as well as the durability, quality and availability of the items.

☞ For more information on water, sanitation and hygiene, see Chapter 14, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Stoves and Fuel


Safe Tools

In 2007, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Force on SAFE was established “to reduce exposure to violence, contribute to the protection of and ease the burden on those populations collecting wood in humanitarian settings worldwide, through solutions which will promote safe access to appropriate energy and reduce environmental impacts while ensuring accountability.”

SAFE tools like the matrix on roles and responsibilities and the decision-tree diagram can be found in the tools section of this chapter.


While planning distributions of stoves and fuel, the responsible agency and the Camp Management Agency must consider:

  • the availability and options of cooking facilities, technologies, and fuels such as firewood, charcoal, gas or kerosene
  • fuel-saving strategies to help protect affected populations and preserve the surrounding natural environment
  • information on who will be preparing food in individual households, existing local cooking practices, and traditional cuisines
  • whether a stove and fuel are needed for cooking, heat and/or light
  • whether there is sufficient ventilation if cooking is done indoors
  • appropriate technology for lowering the risk of fire and burns and reducing exposure to smoke and indoor air pollution.

It is recommended that the food service provider:

  • provides foods that require less cooking time, like split peas and lentils
  • provides easier-to-cook rations when fuel is limited and dry food when fuel is not available. This may be milled cereals, pre-roasted CSB or biscuits
  • offers education and sensitisation on fuel-saving techniques like drying and splitting firewood into small pieces and food preparation practices, like soaking pulses overnight to reduce cooking time
  • promotes and distributes fuel-efficient stoves to households and/or schools.


Safe Access to Fuel

Where camp residents are not provided with the full amount of fuel required, they are likely to resort to negative coping mechanisms. These can include searching for fuel on their own in unsafe territory within the camp or along its borders, bartering or selling of food rations or other possessions, undercooking or skipping meals and exchanging sex for fuel. Working to ensure safe access to fuel and introducing fuel saving options, are important to help mitigate negative coping mechanisms and protection concerns, including exposure to risk or GBV.


It may be preferable to use fuel that is available locally, rather than transport it over greater distances. However, use caution to ensure that local resources are not diminished to the point of exhaustion, both for environmental reasons as well as to keep good relations with the host community.

☞ For information on energy-saving strategies and a camp’s environmental management plan, see Chapter 6, Environment.

School Kits

Where school kits are distributed to camp schools and pupils, they mostly include:

  • notebooks
  • pencils
  • crayons
  • rulers
  • pencil sharpeners
  • back-packs or bags to carry books to and from school.

☞ For more information on school equipment, including a School in a Box, see Chapter 17, Education.

Gardening Sets

Depending on local horticultural practices, where tools and sets for vegetable cultivation are distributed, they usually include:

  • seeds
  • spades
  • machetes
  • rakes
  • watering cans
  • buckets.

Where appropriate, gardening tools could also be provided in support of livelihood activities.


Post-distribution Monitoring

As part of post-distribution monitoring it is important to determine the extent to which distributed items are being sold or swapped. This can be indicative of errors in the distribution system, or of coping mechanisms used to obtain essential items that have not been distributed. It may also indicate incorrect population figures, inappropriate items and need for cash. This monitoring may be carried out at the household level or in markets.