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Targeting the Vulnerable: A Review of the Necessity and Feasibility of Targeting Vulnerable Households

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This article examines whether it is possible to target vulnerable households within a geographically defined area. It looks first at the justification for targeting and then reviews recent practical experience in actually trying to reach vulnerable groups. As complex emergencies increasingly last longer, strategies to target vulnerable households are common in the protracted phase of the emergency. While this is often necessary because of a decline in resources, it is not always justified by an improvement in nutritional status or food security of the beneficiary population.

Common target groups are the poor and the malnourished, but in complex emergencies these are not always the most vulnerable. Moreover, recent practical experience has shown considerable difficulties in targeting the poor. Methods to target the poor rely on community-based relief committees, whose priorities are not necessarily the same as those of external agencies. This paper gives examples of such targeted assistance programmes in Kenya, south Sudan and Tanzania. The paper concludes that situations where targeting vulnerable households is justified and feasible are extremely limited. It is suggested that if targeting has to be done because of scarce resources, this should be done on a geographical basis and on the basis of nutritional status. Case-study material shows that it is essential to understand the political determinants of vulnerability and to design methods that will reach the most vulnerable.
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Keywords: Kenya; NGOs; Tanzania; community based; limited resources; southern Sudan; targeting; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: NutritionWorks

Publication date: December 1, 1999

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