Created to promote relief work in times of peace, the Empress Shôken Fund received many applications this year from Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies and is pleased to announce its support for five Red Cross Red Crescent projects around the world which address local vulnerabilities, namely in Belarus, Bolivia, Eritrea, Iran, and Kiribati. The total amount of the grant allocations is 98,779 Swiss Francs.
The projects selected are relevant to the local contexts and vulnerabilities, and the National Societies show a clear commitment and contribution to the project implementation. In Belarus, where children with disabilities and their families face poverty and social exclusion, many do not get adequate information on their rights, benefits and services. The Belarus Red Cross, particularly in remote areas, is the only organization that serves this need. The grant will allow children with disabilities to take part in a summer camp with their family members and for the majority of participants, it will be their first family summer vacation. The project will empower 54 children with disabilities through specific activities, as well as family members with parental self-help initiatives.
In Bolivia, following the natural disasters that affected the San Antonio area in La Paz in February 2011, families still living in temporary shelters are facing increasing violence (physical, psychological and/or sexual). In this area, there are two schools attended by children, adolescents and young people living in these temporary shelters. With support from the Empress Shôken Fund grant, the Bolivian Red Cross aims to engage these students, and ultimately create two Red Cross educational units to increase awareness among them, their peers and families, of first aid and disaster risk reduction. They also aim to disseminate Red Cross humanitarian values and foster a culture of respect and non-violence.
In Eritrea, where road accidents and injuries stands as the highest cause of mortality and disability, the grant will further community awareness, training of specific groups, and providing effective first aid and ambulance services to victims, thus contributing to reducing mortality and morbidity caused by road accidents.
In Iran, young people living in the cities near the borders with other countries are increasingly affected by unemployment, poverty, drug addiction and other kinds of social disorders. These factors increase crime among a large number of adolescents and youth, and, when in conflict with the law, they are sent to prison or correction and rehabilitation centres. The grant will enable the Red Crescent to protect the lives and health of the young prisoners by disseminating Red Crescent humanitarian principles and values, changing their lifestyles, and increasing their capacities to respond to disasters such as earthquakes and fires. The whole project will reach a total of 4,000 young prisoners in 30 prisons in five provincial cities.
The provision and availability of health care on Kiritimati Island is limited. Kiribati Red Cross is the only provider of first aid services in the country and, for this reason, it provides first aid education to communities vulnerable to accidents and injuries at no cost. The grant will contribute to the implementation of a project that aims to expand Kiribati Red Cross humanitarian services to one of the biggest of the outer islands, Kirimati Island. The ‘Safe and Healthy Living project’ will target three schools (40 students aged between 14 and 16, and sports teachers) and two communities who are particularly vulnerable to accidents and injuries due to the type of work they do under the hot sun, cutting copra and fishing using dangerous equipment.
The Empress Shôken Fund was created in 1912 by Her Majesty The Empress of Japan at the 9th International Red Cross Conference to promote ‘relief work in time of peace’. The fund is administered by a Joint Commission made up of representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Joint Commission maintains regular relations with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva in close cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross Society.
Today the fund has a total value of 10 million Swiss francs, the proceeds of which are used to support projects of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Allocations are granted annually on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of H.M. The Empress Shôken. The first allocation was made in 1921 just after the First World War to five European National Societies in support of the fight against tuberculosis.
Whilst not directly intervening in the administration of the Empress Shôken Fund, the imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Japanese people, venerate the generosity of the Empress and continue to hold in high esteem the relevance of the fund by making regular contributions.