90 years of philanthropy: the Empress Shoken Fund

Published: 12 April 2002 0:00 CET

A fund established ninety years ago in 1912 by the the Empress Shôken of Japan continues to support Red Cross Red Crescent humantarian activities worldwide. She died on April 11, 1914 and the anniversary of her death is traditionally marked with the annual allocation of funds which this years amounts to Swiss francs 440,000.

Ten Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will benefit from grants totalling 440,000 Swiss francs under this year's distribution of income from the Empress Shoken Fund. The money will finance disaster preparedness and response, health, social welfare and youth programmes.

The project proposals were selected by a joint Federation - International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commission, at a meeting in Geneva, on March 27, also attended by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Japan HE, Mr.Koichi Haraguchi. The Commission examined 56 proposals presented by 49 Red Cross Red Crescent Societies.

Besides maintaining a reasonable degree of regional balance, many criteria were taken into consideration during the selection. The priority was given to developing Societies and, among them, to those that are in greatest need or have least benefited from the Fund in the past.

This year's grant will sponsor projects in: Albania: mother and child health care education; Azerbaijan: girls' club; Belarus: AIDS and drug prevention training; Belize: disabled youth project; Cambodia: disaster preparedness and response project; Chad: vehicle for branch development; Nigeria: branch youth empowerment project; Palestine: child health care project; Panama: integrated community development project; Solomon Islands: school bus for handicapped children.

The Fund responds to needs that have been well-defined. The Palestinian project for example, will promote child health care at the Qatanneh Primary Health Care Centre. With the grant, the capacity of this centre will be up-graded to improve the safe delivery of babies and the early detection of disabilities. A team will be established to screen children from birth to 6 years old.

Qatanneh, with an estimated population of 6,500 persons, is a village that lies north west of Jerusalem, just on the border of the West Bank with Israel. The project is aiming to up-grade the physical facility, to develop the human resources, to raise public awareness, to refer, diagnose and follow-up cases that need long-term management..

In Chad, the Red Cross project aims at strengthening the operational capacity of the local branches. The large 4 wheel-drive station wagon, sponsored by the grant, will be used for health vaccination and first aid volunteer training programs, in the distant desert branch of Faya-Largeau.

The Belorussian Red Cross project funded by the grant, focusses on organising AIDS and drug prevention training for 14-21 years old. 30 volunteers will provide education on HIV prevention to about 3,000 young people. By January 2001, 3,279 HIV cases were registered in the country.

Total grants since the Fund's inception amount to Swiss francs 13,571,191including last year. It was set up in 1912 through a gift from her Imperial Majesty of Japan, for the purpose of encouraging the development of humanitarian activities among National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Last year, the Empress Shoken Fund supported 14 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies world wide. The beneficiary Societies were the Red Cross and Red Crescent in: Burkina Faso, Mairitius, Sudan, Ecuador, Korea DPR, St Lucia, Malaysia, Hungary, Samoa, Czech Republic, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan, Syria, Tunisia. In Burkina Faso the grant funded a health programme for 200 handicapped in Ouagadougou.

Application forms for next years grants will be mailed in August 2002. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies will be provided with the criteria and guidelines regarding programmes eligible for support.