Stewart Gray
Image: Stewart Gray

Red Cross Red Crescent has a century and a half worth of experience in distributing relief. Even in the most chaotic of environments, a distribution operation has to take place in a well organized fashion for it to have the desired effect on the lives of the most vulnerable.

Organizing distribution of relief items

1. Queuing in a well organized fashion
2. Entitlement to receipt of relief items is checked
3. If person/family is not entitled to receive relief, they are guided out of the distribution area
4. IFRC, alternatively ICRC voucher is checked against a list of beneficiaries and the voucher is invalidated
5. Family proceeds from one distribution point to the next and is given the right amount of items at each point
6. Possible discrepancies are addressed immediately
7. After having received their allotted items, family transports them home
8. Distribution is observed and managed
9. If need be, relief items are replenished

Before a distribution takes place, the relief unit, together with National Society staff and trained local volunteers, goes to the location to identify recipients. They assess actual needs and order items accordingly from the logistics pipeline.

A voucher entitling receipt of relief items is written out to the name of the mother of each vulnerable family. Those needing most urgent assistance will be targeted first as recipients. Later, aid is provided to all who need it.

Everything is conducted in a transparent way and monitored intently under the protection of the Red Cross Red Crescent emblems. Using this proven formula ensures that the distribution is carried out in a fair and efficient manner, usually without any disorder.

One relief unit can serve up to 500 families in the course of one day of distributions. After having been joined by an adequate amount of trained local Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteers, the unit can muster distributions even on a daily basis.

During the course of one distribution, the unit usually conducts three separate visits to the location.

During the first visit, an assessment of the actual needs takes place, beneficiaries are identified and an order of preference is created based on the vulnerability of each group. Vouchers are written and given to beneficiaries. Next phase is the actual distribution operation. The third visit ensures that the distribution itself is successful and targeting has met the right target, relief supplies are used by beneficiaries and were adequate to cover the actual need.

If more than one distribution is needed, additional vouchers are written based on the predefined order of preference.  In its most efficient mode, the unit operates three visits per day, one team does assessment in one location, another distributes relief items in another and the third team checks the results of a previous distribution.

The unit and the Red Cross Red Crescent distribution procedure are highly efficient. The effect of its work on the lives of beneficiaries is immediate and significant.

Staffing of relief unit

  • 1 Team Leader
  • 1 Systems delegate
  • 1-2 Assessment/relief delegates
  • 1 Shelter delegate

A relief unit works in close cooperation with the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society of the country of operation. A distribution is carried out by National Society staff and trained volunteers. The role of the unit is to organize, observe, advice and manage.

If the emergency shelter unit is deployed from Finland with two vehicles, the unit weighs app. 5000 kilos and requires the transport capacity of 0,5 semi-trailer trucks. Deployment without vehicles can take place by using regular scheduled flights.

Deployments of the relief unit (by 1.6.2011):

  • 2010 to Haiti, in connection with the January 12th 2010 earthquake.