Solidarity and soup kitchens: a review of principles and practice for food distribution in conflict

Solidarity and soup kitchens: a review of principles and practice for food distribution in conflict

Practical guidelines for principled food distribution by humanitarian agencies

This report is a review of current principles and practice for food distribution in conflict. The objective is to assist humanitarian agencies develop a more principled approach to food distribution, which it identifies as one that aims to maximise receipt of food aid by the most vulnerable populations, and to minimise abuse such as diversion, taxation and manipulation.

The briefing contains:

  • Case studies of agency practice in: Somalia; the Rwandan refugee crisis in Zaire; Southern Sudan; the Balkans
  • A summary of problems and risks for food distribution in conflict, both those that arise within recipient countries and external factors such as donor government priorities, resource availability and coordination and agency priorities
  • An analysis of why food distributions are abused, identifying the war strategy of armed groups and the political economy of conflict as the key factors that will define patterns of abuse
  • Agency policy and practice for food distribution in conflict, looking at common practices and more specifically at the strategies of ICRC, CARE, CRS, WVI and WFP

The core of the paper analyses principles behind food distribution and provides guides to implementation strategies based on these principles. Key principles explored here include: humanity; impartiality; neutrality; accountability; transparency; capacity building and community participation. It recommends the following steps for principled distribution

  • Situational analysis looking particularly at livelihoods, war strategies and political contracts.
  • Agreement with authorities and coordination between agencies based on clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Identifying appropriate distribution methods, looking particularly at whether local institutions can be relied on to distribute to the most vulnerable.
  • Identifying risks of abuse at each stage of the distribution process and developing strategies to minimise them. Stages include: needs assessment, engaging with local authorities, registration or identification of vulnerable households, food transport and storage, targeting and distribution, and post-distribution monitoring. Strategies can be divided into those that maximise food receipt by intended beneficiaries, and those that increase the possibility they can hold on to their rations.

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