Synthesis of Mixed Method Impact Evaluations of the Contribution of Food Assistance to Durable Solutions in Protracted Refugee Situations

from World Food Programme, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 28 Jan 2013 View Original

Executive Summary


This is a synthesis of the main findings and common lessons emerging from a series of mixed-method impact evaluations assessing the contribution of food assistance to durable solutions in protracted refugee situations. The evaluations, conducted jointly with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through 2011–2012 in Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia and Rwanda, tested the validity of an intervention logic derived from UNHCR and WFP policies and programme guidance, which posited that the two agencies’ combined work would contribute to increased self-reliance over three stages following refugee arrival.


Food security and nutrition: Unacceptably high numbers of refugee households remained food-insecure, especially in the second half of the period between food distributions. Women were more food-insecure than men, often because they had more dependents. Rates of chronic malnutrition reached or exceeded the high severity threshold in all four contexts, and anaemia prevalence was high, but similar to national rates.

Global acute malnutrition rates ranged from acceptable to serious, and were higher in Bangladesh. Trends were mixed, but rates were better among refugees than among the host population in all four contexts, suggesting that food assistance had a positive impact. Severe acute malnutrition rates were also mixed.

In some programmes, funding shortfalls, pipeline breaks and irregular updating of refugee registers resulted in general food distribution rations being less than the 2,100 kcal per day standard and deficient in proteins and micronutrients.


Livelihood options for refugees were very limited and livelihood support was generally weak. Refugees did not have access to formal labour markets, except for in Rwanda, or adequate land for agriculture, except for in Chad. As a result, the most common type of work for refugees was unskilled day labour in poor conditions, competing with local populations.

The main source of refugee income and collateral was food rations and non-food items, which were sold and exchanged primarily to meet unmet basic needs, such as clothing, and to pay for milling, health services and school expenses. Women were generally the managers of household food supplies and bore the burden and risks of indebtedness. However, except for in Rwanda, women’s participation in camp committees remained limited.

In all four contexts, women’s livelihood activities were especially precarious and often exposed them to risk. Many women and adolescent girls relied on activities such as collecting fuelwood, begging and domestic service; transactional and survival sex were common.