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Project on humanitarian principles and practice for food distribution in conflict

Research in progress

Food Distribution - Angola '93

by Susanne Jaspars, Project Manager, Food in Conflict Project. Partner in NutritionWorks.

NutritionWorks and the Overseas Development Institute are currently undertaking a review of the application of principles of humanitarian action for food distribution in conflict situations. The overall objective of the DfID funded project, is to improve food distribution practice in conflict situations. The proposal for the project arose out of an earlier study by ODI on the application of humanitarian principles in general. One of the findings was that food distribution was the programme most commonly manipulated in conflict. This provided the major motivation for developing a principled approach.

The project will deal specifically with the issue of how to distribute food in a way that ensures that most of it reaches the intended target groups and that any negative impacts are minimised. Negative impacts include, for example, the diversion of food aid by armies or militia, and unequal distributions benefiting the most powerful (often leading to marginalisation or exclusion of the most 'vulnerable').

The project will review the application of fundamental humanitarian principles (humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence), the principles given in the Red Cross/NGO Code of Conduct (which also include capacity building, community participation, and disaster prevention), and the implementation of accepted principles for food distribution (equity, accountability, transparency).

The project aims to interview and collect documentation from the main food distribution agencies; including WFP, ICRC, CARE, CRS and World Vision, in addition to other agencies having either a smaller involvement or indirect influence on food distributions (Oxfam, Save the Children, Medecins Sans Frontiers). In addition, case studies will be undertaken on emergency food distributions in Somalia, South Sudan, Kosovo, and possibly Angola.

The review will focus on the experience of agency staff actually distributing food, and how they have attempted to overcome the various constraints of working in conflict. Each of the above agencies will be asked to comment on their understanding of the 'principles' in relation to food distribution, their appropriateness and relevance. The intended output of the project is the development of a framework that fieldworkers can use to design food distributions. The first phase of the project will be completed by the end of April 2000.

In January, representatives from ICRC, UNHCR, SCF and Justice Africa were interviewed. Fieldwork in Somalia and South Sudan was planned for February 2000, as well as further interviews in the UK and Nairobi.

Any information regarding food distributions in conflict situations is welcome and should be sent to Susanne Jaspars (e-mail: Sjaspars@compuserve.com).

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Reference this page

Susanne Jaspars (2000). Project on humanitarian principles and practice for food distribution in conflict. Field Exchange 9, March 2000. p3. www.ennonline.net/fex/9/project