Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2023
The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan.
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 evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
2023 selection process
The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly.
This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD).
The 2023 grants by theme
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows:
The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level.
The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach.
The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections.
Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows.
Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared.
As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities.
The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs.
Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows.
The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management.
Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation.
The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality.
According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities.
The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere.
At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers.
ESF and learning
The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds.
It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.
| Press release
Millions of people in Asia living in stagnant water at risk of facing deadly diseases
Kuala Lumpur, 27 October 2022 – After unprecedented floods continue to hit many parts of Asia, dangerous un-subsiding flood waters are now the crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns. Men, women, and children are being forced to live out their day-to-day lives in dirty, stagnated water, and are at risk of deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue, cholera, and diarrhoea, not to mention long-term harmful effects to their bodies.
This year's monsoon season in the region saw more than 42 million people being severely hit by floods, landslides, and torrential rains since August. Moreover, this number only includes records from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao, and Cambodia.
Erratic and early rains triggered often unprecedented floods, damaging homes, livestock, infrastructure and more. Many weeks later, the flood waters have not receded.
Joy Singhal, IFRC’s Regional Head, Health, Disasters, Climate and Crisis, said:
“Stagnation of water, muck and mud following floods is a thriving breeding ground for mosquitoes, bacteria, and other harmful organisms. If left unattended to, this will trigger surges in infectious diseases.
“Prolonged water stagnation also causes lasting damage to water supplies and infrastructure, threatening the health of communities long into the future.”
Flood waters bring in substantial amounts of dirt and garbage into homes, schools, and infrastructure. Even if some volume of the water dissipates, torrential rain continues, and the waters rise again.
Many people have resorted to staying longer in shelters than usual. Emergency shelters have had to be relocated numerous times due to rising waters. Some areas, especially in South Asia, reported that the water took almost two months to subside, while most took weeks. This also poses the threat of being infected with COVID-19, as evacuation sites are often crowded and without proper ventilation.
Alexander Matheou, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, said:
“Our teams across the region are reporting grave concerns for communities now facing the often-unseen crisis that follows in the wake of such devastating floods.
"Across the length and breadth of Asia, our health and relief teams are reporting severe repercussions of stagnating waters. People have nowhere to go and are forced to live in dangerous conditions.
“These unmoving waters pose a huge hindrance to communities relocating back to their homes, and therefore prolongs displacement. Not to mention devastating impacts to livestock, agriculture, shelter repairs and further increasing economic hardships, eventually preventing them from heading back to lead normal lives.”
The IFRC have launched emergency appeals multiple times this year to support Red Cross Red Crescent activities across the region for the humanitarian issues arising from the floods, with a focus on immediate needs like providing shelters, relief and medical care.
To arrange an interview, get access to audio-visuals, or for more information, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Afrhill Rances, +60 19 271 3641,
Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830,
| Press release
Thailand: Nearly 1 million people hit by floods amid COVID surge
Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok, 8 October, 2021–Nearly one million people across Thailand are struggling to cope with devastating floods that have submerged large areas in more than a third of the country.
Around 300,000 houses have been affected by the flooding and nine people are reported to have lost their lives according to the Thai GovernmentDepartment of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, in what is being described as the worst floods in a decade in parts of Thailand.
Thai Red Cross teams are stretched to the limit, providing clean water and food, while trying to keep people safe from COVID-19 and ramping up critical vaccination drives across the country.
Dr Amnat Bali, Director of Relief and Community Health Bureau, Thai Red Cross, said:
“What we’ve seen in Lopburi, Singburi and other areas north of Bangkok is that people are expecting to live with the flood waters for several weeks.
“Our volunteers and emergency teams have been working nonstop since the floods began, providing food, and other relief supplies to thousands of people, but we need to support many more as hundreds of thousands of people have flooded homes.
“As soon as the floods subside, we are working alongside local health authorities to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations for older people, migrant workers and others most vulnerable.”
The Thai Red Cross Society disaster response teams have delivered more than 52,000 relief kits with food, water, medicines, sanitary pads, mosquito repellents, cloth masks and hand sanitizers in 20 provinces. Thai Red Cross Society’s boats and an evacuation truck have been rescuing people and providing relief.
Kathryn Clarkson, Southeast Asia Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said:
“These floods come at a difficult time for people already grappling with multiple crises particularly the tragic health and economic toll of COVID-19.
“People need long term support as their ability to recover is stretched while still trying to cope with the impacts of COVID-19. Thai people are resilient, however this is the first time they are adapting to two major crises at the same time.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Preeti Abraham,+66 61 412 3910
In Kuala Lumpur:
Antony Balmain,+60 12 230 8451
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world. www.ifrc.org-Facebook-Twitter-YouTube
| Press release
COVID-19: Southeast Asia battles world’s highest deaths
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 18 August 2021:Southeast Asia is battling the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll driven by the Delta variant and unequal global distribution of vaccines.
Hospitals remain overwhelmed by record surges across Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to Malaysia and Myanmar as fears mount of greater suffering and loss of life with COVID-19 spreading from cities to rural and regional areas.
In the last two weeks, Southeast Asia has recorded38,522 deaths from COVID-19, nearly twice as many as North America, according to theJohn Hopkins UniversityCOVID-19 data dashboard.
Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said:
“This COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it’s far from over. We fear that as the virus spreads from cities to regional and rural areas that many more lives will be lost among the unvaccinated.
“Vaccinations are at record rates in some countries, yet many Southeast Asian nations have low portions of the population fully vaccinated and are languishing far behind Western Europe and North America.”
The United Kingdom has fully vaccinated 60 per cent of its population, while Canada and Spain stand at around 64 per cent, according to Oxford University’sOur World in Data.
By contrast, Malaysia has fully vaccinated 34 per cent of its population against COVID-19, Indonesia and Philippines, close to 11 per cent and Vietnam less than 2 per cent.
Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and most Southeast Asia countries are all battling record COVID-19 infections or death tolls.
Seven of the top 10 countries where COVID-19 deaths have doubled the fastest are in Asia and the Pacific, with Vietnam, Fiji and Myanmar all in the top five, according toOur World in Data.
“In the short-term, we need much greater efforts by richer countries to urgently share their millions of excess vaccine doses with countries in Southeast Asia. We also need vaccine companies and governments to share technology and scale up production,”Mr Matheou said.
“These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations, in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia. We must aim for mass vaccination rates of 70-80 per cent if we want to win the race against the variants and overcome this global pandemic.”
Until vaccination levels reach a critical mass, in the short-term it is also crucial to reinforce health protection measures, such as wearing a mask, physical distance and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces.
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 60% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.
Photos of Red Cross and Red Crescent activities are available for download
| Press release
South East Asia: COVID-19 vaccine divide widens as Delta surges
Kuala Lumpur/Jakarta/Geneva, 13 July 2021:A deadly wave of COVID-19 fuelled by the Delta variant is crashing into South East Asia as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns of a widening global vaccine divide.
Countries across South East Asia from Indonesia to Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar are facing hospitals full and overwhelmed while many race to roll out vaccines.
Around 10,000 COVID-19 infections are being recorded in Thailand a day, more than four times a month ago, while deaths have also reached record highs. Infections in Viet Nam have surged past 2,000 a day, close to 10 times more than in early June.
Richer countries such as the United Kingdom have fully vaccinated more than half their populations. Viet Nam has fully vaccinated less than 1 per cent, Thailand around 5 per cent and Indonesia 5.5 per cent, according toOxford University’s COVID-19 Our World in Data.
Alexander Matheou Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“Millions of people in Asia are living on the cruel and sharp edge of a global vaccine divide between richer countries that have a steady supply and most nations in Asia that are struggling to access sufficient doses to keep their populations safe.
“There is mounting evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations are already saving tens of thousands of lives around the world.”
Across Asia, thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are racing to vaccinate people alongside health authorities, yet vaccinations are struggling to keep pace with the variants and the spread of the virus.
“It is encouraging that a number of richer countries have made generous pledges and donations of vaccines to countries in Asia in recent weeks,” said Mr Matheou.
“We need to speed up the delivery of these lifesaving doses so that we can get them in to people’s arms, giving us a genuine shot at containing this pandemic once and for all.”
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 60 per cent of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.
The Thai Red Cross Society
| Press release
Eight hundred thousand masks to help protect migrant workers from COVID-19
Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok, 23 June 2020:Nearly a million masks are being provided to migrant workers, village health volunteers and other frontline workers as part of a new initiative to protect people at risk from COVID-19 in Thailand.
An estimated 80 million migrant workers in Asia are particularly vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many missing out on support because they are undocumented and therefore largely invisible to authorities and humanitarian organisations.
Thailand is a significant regional migration hub in South-East Asia and currently hosts an estimated four million migrant workers. Most of these migrant workers come from neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Migrants work in a range of sectors including construction, fisheries, agriculture, hospitality, and domestic work.
Thai Red Cross Society will be supporting 400,000 people by providing protective equipment to migrant workers, including reusable cloth face masks, alcohol gel and information materials. Migrant workers under quarantine will also receive relief kits including food and personal hygiene items.
Mr. Pichit Siriwan, M.D., Deputy Director of the Relief and Community Health Bureau, Thai Red Cross Society, as Chairman of the project said:“This project isencouraging people to wear masks to protect themselves from the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand. Cloth face masks can prevent wearers from transmitting or being in contact with COVID-19. Theobjectives are to protect and help migrants and their families in accordance with humanitarian principles and to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand."
Mr Christopher Rassi, Head of Delegation, Bangkok, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Migrants, especially those who are undocumented, face daily challenges which are further exacerbated by the health and socio-economic impacts of this pandemic. Red Cross is supporting migrant workers, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it’s vital that everyone can be safe from COVID-19.”
Through this initiative the Thai Red Cross Society is working with IFRC, the Internatioanl Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF, and the Migrant Working Group, Thailand. This major collaboration is being launched in Samut Sakhon province, where many migrants live and work south west of Bangkok.
IFRC is supporting Thai Red Cross to assist migrant workers and other COVID-19 initiatives through its Global Emergency Appeal.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2019
About the Fund
The Empress Shôken Fundis 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 15 million Swiss francsand 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. The Fund has assisted more than 150 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese RedCrossand the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund isevident inthe regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on11April, the anniversary of her death. This yearthe announcement isbeingpublished earlierdue to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 47 applications in 2019, 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 395,782 CHF to 14 projects in Bolivia, Cyprus, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore, Slovenia, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine and Vanuatu.
The projects to be supported in 2019 cover a number of themes, including displaced people, disaster preparedness in vulnerable communities, and social cohesion and inclusion. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere.
Going forward, the Joint Commission will continue to focus on innovative projects that are geared towards learning so that the broader Movement canbenefit from project findings.
The 2019 grants
The Bolivian Red Cross is currently working to address the issue of gender-based violence among young people. It will use the grant to set up a permanent programme for schools and youth organizations in order to conduct educational sessions, raise awareness, and provide support and assistance to victims of violence.
Cyprus has become an important destination for trans-Mediterranean migration. Using the grant, the Cyprus Red Cross Society will train refugees and asylum seekers in standard and psychological first aid to enable members of the migrant community to help each other and relieve some of the pressure on the health-care sector.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau will use the grant to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities threatened by extreme weather. The funds will go towards drawing up an emergency action plan, building up stocks of relief items and training at-risk communities so that they can respond rapidly in times of need.
In Iraq, displaced people and those living in remote areas have limited access to water, sanitary facilities and health care, which increases the risk that diseases such as cholera will spread. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society will use the grant to set up a health-education programme to raise children’s awareness of communicable diseases and the importance of personal hygiene.
The conflict in Syria has significantly increased the number of refugees in Lebanon, which has put a strain on blood-related services in the country. The Lebanese Red Cross is a major provider of these services and will use the grant to enhance its ability to deliver them free of charge to all those in need.
Hundreds of schools in Mexico were damaged by a major earthquake in 2017. The grant will help the Mexican Red Cross to set up a programme to prepare school communities for disasters and other emergencies, promote healthy lifestyles and develop skills to facilitate peaceful co-existence.
Young people account for more than 70% of the volunteers of the Mozambique Red Cross. The National Society will therefore use the grant to strengthen its youth-oriented initiatives by running training camps and information campaigns, and setting up Red Cross activities in schools.
In 2004, the Sao Tome and Principe Red Cross opened a social home for the elderly, which plays an important role in reducing this community’s vulnerability. The grant will allow the National Society to renovate the building and improve the services on offer.
The Singapore Red Cross Society runs a large-scale programme to deploy volunteers overseas during disasters. It will use the grant to scale up the training programme for these volunteers, adding more specialized and in-depth training and team-building sessions to ensure the volunteers can work as effectively as possible.
The Slovenian Red Cross plans to take an innovative approach to social cohesion by tackling hate speech and its consequences, with a special emphasis on hate speech against migrants. The grant will go towards a training programme within schools, designed to encourage students to become young cultural ambassadors and further spread the message.
The Suriname Red Cross Society will use the grant to address disaster preparedness in vulnerable schools in Paramaribo. The National Society will help schools and communities to draw up disaster plans, deliver first-aid training to teachers, and set up and train school emergency brigades made up of teachers and students.
The Thai Red Cross Society has a proven track record in conducting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities in emergencies, through its widespread network of registered nurses. It will use the grant to scale up this campaign, as well as to create a WASH manual, together with general and menstrual hygiene kits.
The armed conflict in Ukraine has led to a substantial rise in the number of volunteers working for the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. The grant will go towards a new, more sophisticated system for registering, managing and training the National Society’s growing volunteer base.
People with disabilities are at greater risk during disasters. The Vanuatu Red Cross Society will therefore use the grant to improve and promote disability and gender inclusion in National Society projects and programmes concerning volunteers, recruitment, capacity building, participation and access.