A major dilemma in situations of displacement is ensuring that humanitarian assistance, in particular food aid, reaches the most vulnerable and has the greatest impact while adhering to basic principles of neutrality and impartiality. Assistance programmes for allocating humanitarian resources and for censusing (counting and registering) internally displaced persons (IDPs) often lack the information needed to appropriately tailor assistance to the specific conditions and needs of different IDP groups. Reference is made in particular to possible manipulation of IDP data for political purposes.
This paper suggests that assessment methodologies can play an important role in understanding and acting upon IDP needs in a neutral and impartial manner. The needs assessment approach outlined here illustrates how World Food Programme (WFP) Colombia is building upon standard analytical WFP Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) framework to develop a country-specific methodology. In the case of Colombia the approach was developed based upon a thorough understanding of IDPs needs from secondary sources and an initial Food Needs Assessment Case Study.