Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2022
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 17 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, over 14 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 170 National Societies.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insight that will benefit the Movement as a whole. An innovation campaign was launched in December 2021 to further increase awareness of the Fund and what it stands for.
The campaign resulted in 52 proposals being submitted versus only 28 in 2021, and more innovative proposals compared to previous years, further strengthening the Fund’s positioning as supporting innovation.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
The selection process
The Fund received 52 applications in 2022, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 471,712 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Libya, Mongolia, Niger, Portugal, Serbia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Yemen.
The projects to be supported in 2022 cover a number of themes, including first aid and rescue, support for young people, disaster preparedness, health, social welfare and National Society development. The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate new insight and learning that will benefit the Movement as a whole. Reports from the National Societies whose projects were funded and implemented in 2020 generated insights in the areas listed below.
Top 10 key learnings from project implemented in 2020
Adaptability and agility
Taking a pilot approach
The 2022 grants
The Burkinabe Red Cross Society plans to strengthen psychosocial care and the capacities of community volunteers and first-aiders in communities affected by the crisis. The grant will allow the National Society to assist victims of attacks by armed groups in areas where security is a challenge.
In 2017, over 43.8% of Ivorians were illiterate, and the disparities between men and women and by places of residence were enormous. The Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire will use the grant to help improve the education and increase the autonomy of young women in the Bounkani Region who have not attended school.
The Croatian Red Cross will use the grant funds to spread awareness of the humanitarian ideals and educate children from an early age, through the Humanity Corner.
The Dominica Red Cross Society will provide support for and help introduce farming techniques and other solutions for managing climate change and other risks. The funds will be used to train 15 farmers as Agri First Responders in their community.
The Dominican Red Cross will help build young people’s capacity to carry out local social support activities. The grant will be used to develop a virtual introductory course on planning and coordinating social support activities that is adapted to the young people’s local reality, so that they are equipped with the techniques and tools to address the needs of their community.
The Ecuadorean Red Cross aims to identify and provide primary care for the negative feelings and emotions in young people from age 15 to 30 years in the city of Quito. The grant funds will provide immersion technologies to addresses the heightened need in the community owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jordan National Red Crescent Society has recognized young people and volunteers as the beating heart of the National Society, especially during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which they served local communities across the country, when mobility was restricted. This grant will help them improve the management system for recruiting, developing, promoting and retaining volunteers to support humanitarian operations.
Libya is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, given its arid climate. This grant will help the Libyan Red Crescent raise awareness of the risks associated with climate change and highlight personal behaviours that could help mitigate these risks for communities.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society wants to use digital communication tools funded by the grant in order to help ensure there is meaningful community participation across all programmes and operations, improve its public relations management and strengthen its transparency and accountability to communities.
In the event of an accident, smartphones can provide information that is essential for providing effective first aid. Thanks to the grant, the Red Cross Society of Niger will educate and inform the public about how to store useful information in the “emergency call” section of their phones.
The Portuguese Red Cross will address young people's social exclusion and the lack of space and opportunities to develop relevant skills and digital literacy, through the Platforms of Change, funded by the grant.
Through the “Their life is in your hands” digital marketing campaign, funded by the grant, the Red Cross of Serbia will raise the general public’s awareness of the value of CPR skills and AED use and provide the related training.
The Republic of Korea National Red Cross will focus on supporting disaster risk reduction in many countries in the Asia Pacific Region. The grant will fund development of virtual reality training content by the Asia Pacific Disaster Resilience Centre, provide sets of virtual reality devices to seven National Societies and provide virtual reality training on disaster risk reduction.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is aiming for better nutrition and improved water, sanitation and hygiene in vulnerable communities that are drought-prone. The grant will introduce groundwater recharging practices into the catchment and tank ecosystem areas, to facilitate groundwater retention.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, communities face challenges in gaining access to reliable, up-to-date information and in overcoming the rumours, myths and misconceptions around the vaccine. Supported by the grant, the Tanzania Red Cross Society will develop a mobile application, “UJANJA KUCHANJA”, to enhance information-sharing, build trust and increase information access and reach.
In a mountainous district of Yemen, frequent rockslides often injure people and domestic animals, disrupt transport networks and cut people off from their livelihood activities. Thanks to the grant, the Yemen Red Crescent Society will take measures to prevent rockslides and help reduce the number of victims and the damage caused.
| Press release
Ukraine: Millions at risk as health concerns exacerbate vulnerabilities
Budapest/Geneva, 10 March 2022 – As the conflict continues in Ukraine and a cold front descends, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the dire health - including the spread of COVID-19 - and mental health consequences for millions of people both inside and outside of the country.
The fighting in Ukraine has continued for two weeks and no one has been left unscathed. An estimated 18 million people – a third of the country’s population – will need humanitarian assistance, and more than 2.3 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. As the lives of millions are being upended, there is a real concern of diseases spreading, pre-existing health conditions worsening and mental health concerns increasing.
“Many of the people affected were already vulnerable before the conflict and now face an even harsher situation as they are losing their homes and their livelihoods, being forced to seek shelter wherever they can or fleeing their country in search of safety. They urgently need food, water and shelter, but also emergency medical care, protective measures and psychosocial support to avert an even greater humanitarian catastrophe,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director for Europe.
At the Przemyśl railway station in Poland, a woman was crying and being comforted by a volunteer from the Polish Red Cross. When asked what had happened, she answered that she had spent the whole night and day waiting for the train from Ukraine that would bring her daughter to safety. The train had finally arrived, but her daughter had not.
People fleeing conflict often experience highly distressing situations, loss and trauma, which may impact their mental health and ability to cope. Psychosocial support will be needed in the days, weeks, and months to come.
In conflict settings, public health measures to prevent diseases from spreading become extremely challenging. People are forced to shelter in crowded spaces with limited sanitary conditions or access to basic health services, which increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. The spread of COVID-19 is a particular concern as the vaccination rate in Ukraine is among the lowest in Europe with only one-third of the population having received the first dose. Ukraine also has one of the highest rates of multidrug resistant tuberculosis in the world.
Adding to what is already a desperate situation, temperatures are dropping below freezing. There is an urgent need for warm clothing and adequate shelter to shield people in temporary locations and those who are queuing at the borders from the elements, the majority of whom are women, children and older people.
“Our Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries are doing their utmost to support anyone in need, in particular those who are most at-risk including unaccompanied minors, single parent households, older people, and people with disabilities. They have the full support of IFRC and our global network, but more funding is desperately needed as millions of lives are at stake. Even if the armed conflict was to end tomorrow, the humanitarian consequences will be felt for years to come,” said Bischoff Ebbesen.
Notes to editors
In Ukraine, Red Cross teams are providing first aid and first aid training, helping in reception centres and to transport people to safety, and distributing relief items, including warm clothes. Despite the mortal danger they themselves are under, 3,000 new local volunteers have stepped up to support their neighbours.
In Hungary, Red Cross teams are operating three health service points at the border. They are also running reception and collection centres where they are welcoming people crossing from Ukraine and distributing relief goods.
In Poland, where 60 per cent (more than a million) of people from Ukraine are fleeing, the Polish Red Cross has activated more than 20 rescue teams, including approximately 450 medics, who are providing round-the-clock health care and psychosocial support at five of the eight border points as well as in major cities.
In Moldova, volunteers and staff from Moldova Red Cross have provided support to approximately 200,000 people who have crossed over from Ukraine. They are at all border crossing points offering hot tea, warm food, diapers, and personal protective equipment including face masks and sanitizer. Volunteers are also helping at reception centres, assisting with food preparation and playing with children.
In Russia, Red Cross teams have delivered 187 tonnes of aid including clothing, hygiene kits, baby products and household items. They are providing psychosocial support, have opened a mental health support hotline and, to date, have provided 756 consultations. More than 160 calls have come in to the restoring family links hotline.
In Romania, volunteers and staff from the local Red Cross are at various border crossings distributing food items, water, basic necessities, hygiene products, and thousands of SIM cards to people in need. The Red Cross is helping local authorities in equipping reception centres with tents, bedding, food and hygiene and baby items. Volunteers are also visiting placement centres, playing with children and helping local staff to prepare food and other necessary support.
In Slovakia the Red Cross is at all three of the country’s border crossings, where teams are providing services such as warming shelters, referrals to essential services, and first aid. As people are quickly moving on from the border area, the Red Cross is quickly scaling up support along the routes. This support includes psychosocial support and providing child-friendly spaces; social services, particularly referrals for services such as education, healthcare and registration for legal status; providing first aid, health assessments, referrals to clinical care and COVID-19 testing.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, [email protected], +1 226 376 4013
In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 953 7709
In Geneva: Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500, [email protected]
Read more about the IFRC's emergency appeal for Ukraine and impacted countries.
Photos and videos:
Ukraine - Romania - Hungary - Croatia - Poland - Slovakia - Russia - Moldova - IFRC Newsroom
Croatian Red Cross
12 months of coronavirus in Europe
The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France– no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead.
Nor could they have foreseen how Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies stepped up their activities across Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to be at the heart of the response.
Staff and volunteers from the movement have been running first aid tents, delivering critical supplies to the elderly, caring for the sick and dying, at the end of the phone for people unable to leave home. They’ve provided food, shelter, a kind word and a friendly face, supported those who fall through the cracks – the migrants, people on the move, people who are homeless. They’ve provided trusted information.
The numbers are staggering.
More than 12.5 million people across the region have received food and other material aid from Red Cross Red Crescent. More than 2.8 million people have received direct cash or voucher assistance and 1.3 million more received psychosocial support to help them through the tough times.
Red Cross Red Crescent ambulances carried more than 325,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Accurate information was shared to help inform people about the virus and how to stay safe, and an estimated 60 million people in the region have been reached with this messaging.
The breathtaking spread of the virus
With Italy the centre of the first wave, and the first country to go into lockdown, it remained the hardest hit country in Europe for months. Italian Red Cross was the first National Society in Europe to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine, and ramped up their ambulance service to cope with the escalating number of people infected.
By March Europe was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on 18 March more than 250 million people were in lockdown in Europe. And now, nearly 12 months after the first case, sadly by 19 January 2021, 30.8 million cases were confirmed and 674,00 people in the region had died. 
The Red Cross Red Crescent response needed to be swift. On 30 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the following day the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) allocated funds for a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and a preliminary Emergency Appeal. With its long experience in health emergencies it anticipated COVID-19 could develop into a pandemic with a devastating humanitarian impact and sadly it has shaped up to be one of the world’s most challenging crises, affecting every corner of the region with everyone vulnerable to contracting this virus.
In line with Red Cross Red Crescent’s unique role as auxiliary to government, and as a community-based and widely-trusted organization, in Europe region the Red Cross movement came up with innovative responses. The Austrian Red Cross developed a contact tracing app. British Red Cross surveyed people on their loneliness and pivoted to provide extra support for those newly alone. The Czech Red Cross trained volunteers to work in hospitals that had become overwhelmed. The Turkish Red Crescent researched people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the virus and pivoted to fill the gaps they discovered. Swedish volunteers helped children with their homework. The Red Crosses of the countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia worked together to get supplies across their borders to people in an isolated part of Croatia. Extra support was given to people with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose treatment was disrupted by the pandemic.
With the rapid surge in prevention activity, while case numbers grew at an alarming rate, by the end of Spring the situation had improved somewhat.
By summer as numbers plateaued government restrictions relaxed. The movement urged people to stay the course and maintain prevention measures in the face of pandemic fatigue and a sense the worst was behind us.
Sadly conditions deteriorated, leading to a second wave. From late July case and death numbers steadily worsened again. By October, the Europe region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases globally, with over 1.3 million new cases in the last week of October, a 33% leap in cases in a week.
The national societies doubled down. Many had by now switched to remote and on-line support, however 23 National Societies continued to deliver COVID-safe clinical and paramedical services, including those in Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and the UK. As well they ran quarantine and testing stations, triage facilities and outpatient fever clinics to support the public emergency medical service, and provided mobile care services.
Some National Societies also supported experimental treatments by collecting plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 and had antibodies, and in turn provided this plasma to hospitals to treat very sick patients. Countless training and guidance sessions for staff and volunteers on COVID-19 were helped across the region, on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ambulances cleaning and disinfection.
Vaccines – a potential game changer
By the start of December, the future started to look brighter. Countries started to plan for the possible arrival of vaccines, but this was taking place against a background of a relentless resurgence in the number of people infected with COVID-19. In the WHO Europe region, there had been more than 4 million new cases in November alone, with the region accounting for 40 % of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths. 
The vaccine results have come to be seen a large part of the solutions to containing the virus, but it has brought with it the challenge of countering misinformation and building trust in vaccines, as well as managing expectations that they will bring about a quick end to the pandemic. IFRC has supported local efforts to educate communities about their safety and efficacy.
Those hardest hit
In January more evidence came to light of the disproportionate impact the coronavirus was having on older people when the IFRC’s Europe office published the results of a survey which found older people had become sicker, poorer and more alone as a result of the pandemic. It added to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus had harmed the poor and most vulnerable the most, pushing millions more into poverty.  Sadly, migrants were also identified in new IFRC research as those least protected and most affected by the pandemic. 
And now, as we enter the start of the second year of the pandemic under ongoing harsh lockdowns, many countries are starting to see cases stabilise and even reduce.
This emergency has had significant challenges, including global flows of misinformation and disinformation, response fatigue and system-wide impacts of multiple waves of cases. The Red Cross Red Crescent movement is well-placed to do its part in the regional response given its extensive history with disease outbreak.
And planners in the movement acknowledge that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to end this pandemic alone. Red Cross will continue to work with communities to ensure they are informed about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to keep safe. It’s continuing to advocate for tracing and isolation of people who are ill as a central part of the response. To keep in the fight against COVID-19, the entire population must stick to the preventative measures which have been proven to help stop the spread of the virus – even as a vaccine becomes more widely available.
| Press release
Croatia: Potential COVID-19 spread in temporary shelters concerns in aftermath of killer earthquake
Zagreb/Budapest, 30 December 2020 – Red Cross teams have mobilised across Croatia to help hundreds of people hit by yesterday’s magnitude 6.4 earthquake, the latest in a series of deadly quakes to have struck the country this year.
Croatian Red Cross spokesperson Katerina Zoric said Red Cross personnel have been on hand at the epicentre Petrinja since it hit around midday yesterday, killing reportedly seven people and injuring more than 26.
“More than 100 trained Red Cross staff and volunteers are helping with evacuations, providing first aid for the injured, helping clear the rubble and set up tents for displaced people,” she said.
“We have been working through the night to distribute aid to people affected in Petrinja and in the surrounding villages of Hrašnik, Cross Oak, Oak and Cepeliš. We have supplied food, water, warm tea, blankets and jackets to people forced to remain outside. We have helped with the evacuation of a nursing home and will continue to be in the field wherever help is needed.”
The Croatian Red Cross is collecting cash and in-kind donations through its website to support the people affected.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Regional Director for Europe, Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen confirms that the organisation is supporting Croatian Red Cross efforts.
“We are concerned about the effect of on-going earthquakes on these communities. People in the quake-affected areas are already suffering mental distress after a powerful 5.4 earthquake struck Zagreb in March this year, damaging buildings and structures and the recent quakes are only compounding understandable anxiety and uncertainty,” she said.
“We are also worried that the current turmoil may lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases in Croatia. Hundreds of people who were forced to leave their homes, are accommodated in communal buildings and tents, while others are seeking shelter in different parts of the country, increasing the risk of transmission. The Croatian Red Cross is doing an outstanding job to ensure that COVID-19 protection measures are observed during the emergency operation.”
| Press release
Croatia: Red Cross shelters hundreds of homeless after 5.4 magnitude earthquake
Zagreb/Budapest,22 March 2020– More than 100 Croatian Red Cross volunteers are providing urgent assistance and shelter for people on the streets of Zagreb, after a powerful earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck the Croatian capital early this morning.
The quake, at 6:24am, was the strongest in Croatia in more than 140 years. Many buildings are badly damaged and at least one, in Adzijina Street, collapsed trapping several people. There are power cuts in some parts of the city.
Immediately after the earthquake, Croatian Red Cross teams distributed water and blankets for patients and newborns who were displaced from a central city maternity hospital.
Red Cross volunteers have set up six tents around hospitals in Zagreb and a tent city at French Republic Square, which can accommodate up to 500 people.
The tents will also shelter people who do not want to return home, as aftershocks continue to rock the city. People are being provided with food, water, tea and blankets. The Croatian Red Cross headquarters sustained minor damage.
The Executive President of Croatian Red Cross, Robert Markt, said all measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are being observed in the tent city.
“The situation is very challenging because we are dealing with both an earthquake and the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mr Markt said. “We are aware that people are scared and that is why Red Cross teams will patrol the streets of the city to help as many people as possible and provide psychosocial support.
“Of course, we also need to remind citizens of the importance of protecting against the spread of COVID-19. For now, we have the situation under control.”
An additional 100 Red Cross volunteers are visiting the elderly and those in self-isolation for COVID-19, bringing the total number of volunteers to 200. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 126 cases of COVID-19 in Croatia, with one death.
Mr Markt said the Red Cross is ready for further action when Croatia’s Civil Protection Authority determines what is needed.
Photos are available here
Red Cross integration programme helps relocated refugees to settle in their host countries
Three European Red Cross societies have launched a joint initiative that focuses on the social integration of refugees and asylum-seekers.The two-year project “Action of Red Cross on Integration of Relocated and Resettled Persons” runs under the acronym ARCI and is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the German, Bulgarian and Croatian Red Cross.
ARCI aims to provide personalized and accessible information for refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in these countries through EU relocation and resettlement programmes but brings benefits for the integration of larger groups of asylum-seekers and refugees in these countries. The project allows refugees and asylum-seekers to receive information in their native language from the moment they arrive in a host country. It also enables them to participate in skills and language training, and to receive some support in finding a job or a school for themselves or their family members.
To better understand the needs of the people arriving in a new country, a series of interviews have been conducted with refugees and asylum-seekers themselves and the National Societies are regularly coordinating their support with key authorities and organizations active in the field of integration. The programme also aims to foster acceptance in the host communities and sensitize local authorities through a series of trainings and sessions.
"Our experience has shown that integration is most successful when both host and refugee community are working together. Local Red Cross volunteers who engage in activities like drawing or yoga with refugees on a daily basis can build the initial bridge between the two groups. We couldn’t do all this without their dedication,”
Policy Officer at the German Red Cross
Both EU Relocation and Resettlement scheme have allowed the transfer of persons in need of international protection to access long-term solution of integration and protection in EU countries. As of June 2018, over 34,000 people have been relocated within the EU and more than 25,980 resettled since 2015. Although the EU Relocation scheme has officially ended, Germany, Croatia, and Bulgaria have received altogether 10,979 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy who have needed integration support from the moment they have arrived at their countries. Through the linkages of pre-departure and post-arrival needs assessment, the project is also looking at identifying good practices that can benefit further humanitarian admission programmes.
The ARCI project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
The content of this article represents the views of the author only and is his or her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made on the information it contains.
| Press release
Red Cross warns of worsening conditions and violence against migrants as thousands remain stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo/Budapest/Geneva, 19 July 2018 – Dozens of people are being treated daily for injuries sustained while attempting to cross from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Croatia, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).More than 8,000 people have arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the start of the year – eight times the number who arrived in 2017. This includes 3,000 who have arrived in the past four weeks. Most people are in the country’s north west, close to the border with Croatia, with at least 700 sleeping in a derelict building in Bihac town.In Bihac, first aid teams from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Red Cross are treating up to 70 people per day – many of whom have suffered injuries while attempting to cross the border into Croatia.IFRC spokesperson in Bihac, Nicole Robicheau, said: “The conditions close to the border are grossly inadequate and we’re concerned for people’s safety. Families are sleeping on the ground without any proper shelter, without bedding or blankets - people don’t want to stay here but they are effectively stranded. Each day, people try to move onwards to Croatia but many return with injuries.”Red Cross teams in Bihac are providing support including first aid, food, clothes, and information. But with hundreds of people arriving or transiting through the region each week, local resources have been overwhelmed. In late June, IFRC released 200,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster local efforts.“We are seeing a rise in the number of families arriving which is a cause for concern,” said Robicheau. “One woman who arrived this week gave birth on the way here. These conditions are dire for anyone but families with young children are among the most vulnerable.”Last week, IFRC released a report – New Walled Order – identifying a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. Such factors range from the overt – including the fear of harassment, arrest or deportation – to the less obvious, which can include prohibitive costs, cultural and linguistic barriers, and a lack of information about their rights.“We are extremely concerned about reports of violence against people trying to make their way into Croatia,” said IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, Simon Missiri. “Governments have the right to set and enforce migration policies, but they also have the obligation to ensure that all people, regardless of immigration status, are treated with dignity and respect.“A desire to control one’s border does not justify violence.”