Empress Shôken Fund supporting projects all over the world

Published: 11 April 2008

In 2008, the Empress Shôken Fund will grant nearly 470,000 Swiss francs ($463,000 USD/euro295,600) to 11 projects carried out by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the globe. A special emphasis is being placed on African initiatives, which will receive around a third of this year’s grants.

The awarded projects focus on a range of themes including humanitarian values in Mozambique, youth development in Argentina, human trafficking in Lithuania, disaster preparedness in Benin and India and first aid in Syria and South Africa. Others include social services in Cape Verde, and building capacity to respond to emergencies in Fiji and Lebanon through updating equipment and providing training.

The Empress Shôken Fund was established in 1912 by Her Majesty the Empress of Japan to support Red Cross Red Crescent activities worldwide. Since then, it has grown thanks to contributions from the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Imperial Family.

The annual allocation of grants traditionally takes place on 11 April, the anniversary of the Empress’ death. The projects are selected by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Preference is given to applications from National Societies in the greatest need or from those that have least benefited from the fund in previous years. A reasonable regional balance is also maintained.

Following is a list of the projects supported by the Empress Shôken Fund in 2008.

Preparing for emergencies

The Fiji Red Cross Society provides the country’s only off road ambulance service. The funds allocation will allow them to replace their previous ambulance. It will complement the response capabilities of the emergency response team to assist victims of disasters or those in need of medical emergency assistance.

One of the primary missions of the Lebanese Red Cross is to provide the pre-hospital link in emergency response throughout the country. After the 2006 hostilities, during which first aid teams carried out over 160,000 missions, a five-year plan was established to standardize and modernize the teams’ work, including their communications equipment. The project supported by the Shôken Fund covers the installation of computers and communications systems in the 43 first aid stations and the Lebanese Red Cross headquarters, as well as training for the first aid teams.

The project presented by the Benin Red Cross focuses on training Red Cross youth to build community-based disaster preparedness and risk reduction capacity, over a 12-month period. It will contribute to the general development of the National Society by training 30 trainers and 500 volunteers, in order to sensitize 10,000 people on issues linked to disaster preparedness and risk reduction. Ten local committees will also receive first aid and rescue materials.

The India Red Cross has presented two projects, one for Assam and one for Orissa. In Assam, a region prone to heavy floods, raised platforms will be constructed to prepare the local population in a number of villages for times of emergency. The platforms will also be used for cultural and economic activities in non-emergency periods.

Health and care

The second India Red Cross project will take place in Orissa, and is focused on improving the health of isolated communities who have little or no access to health care facilities. A mobile health unit will be provided to serve more than 12,000 people. Experience in the region has shown that many diseases in rural areas stem from poor sanitation and hygiene and a lack of knowledge. This project will focus on disease prevention through education, and will improve the community’s access to treatment.

In Syria, only the Syrian Arab Red Crescent provides the public with information on first aid, and this has been identified as a priority for the National Society. Through the funding provided by the Empress Shôken Fund, 14 branches will be provided with training equipment. The goal is to educate communities on first aid to be prepared for emergencies.

The fund will also make an allocation to the South Africa Red Cross to train youth volunteers in nine provinces, in first aid and emergency health care; they will be working in local communities who have inadequate access to ambulance services. More than 700 young people in 20 branches will be trained and the funds will be used to provide equipment, training, and support door-to-door campaigns.

Since 1990, the Cape Verde Red Cross, recognized by the public and the authorities as a professional and caring institution, has been carrying out a social programme for elderly people. It manages eight day care centres throughout the archipelago, providing basic health and food assistance as well as psychological support. The financial aid of the Empress Shôken Fund will allow the society to buy a mini van for the Praia Day Centre which assists 60 persons, in order to transport elderly persons to the centre, as well as staff and volunteers on their rounds of home visits.


The project presented by the Argentina Red Cross aims to promote the community-based work of young people in four branch offices in the Province of Entre Rios. The project includes the development of spaces and activities designed for young people, in the branches and the neighbourhoods. As well as recreational activities, the project will provide training in vulnerability and capacity analysis, as well as information sessions on humanitarian ideals. Thanks to the financial aid of the Shôken Fund, some 120 young people will be trained and 2,000 will receive information on principles, values and rights.

The Lithuanian Red Cross has been successfully responding to the issue of human trafficking since 2004 in a number of branches, mainly by doing public awareness-raising. This new financial aid will allow the Red Cross youth section to extend the programme’s training and prevention activities to four regions of the country, as well as develop more educational material. Focusing on 15- to 19-year-old students, the programme aims to mobilize local communities to be aware of the dangers and consequences of human trafficking for young people, and women in particular.

The Mozambique Red Cross has been promoting the development of a new generation of volunteers, increasingly sensitized to humanitarian principles. The new funding will allow the National Society to train some 50 staff and instructors and produce interactive educational material. It is expected that through this project, more than 6,000 youth volunteers will be educated on humanitarian values. And that as a consequence, the lives and living conditions of people in vulnerable communities will be improved.