Empress Shôken Fund to benefit projects around the world
In 2007, the Empress Shôken Fund will grant over 460,000 Swiss francs ($378,00 USD/€281,000) 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 youth activities in Burkina Faso, voluntary blood donations, health development and safe sexual behaviour in Lesotho and Ecuador, HIV/AIDS and drug addiction in Ukraine and Iran, malaria prevention in Sudan, and medico-social home-based care in Uzbekistan.
Others include disaster management in Jordan, dissemination of humanitarian values in Honduras, and educational training centres in Bosnia Herzegovina.
The Empress Shôken Fund was established in 1912 by Her Majesty the Empress of Japan to support Red Cross and 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.
In Ukraine, a lack of communication on HIV/AIDS and the inc reasing stigmatization of people living with HIV has made it increasingly difficult to address the epidemic.
The Empress Shôken Fund grant will enable the National Society to implement a programme to reduce the level of discrimination towards people living with HIV, through information sharing and safe behaviour campaigns in train stations, through media coverage and by involving sport celebrities.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society awareness programme will focus on the wives of prisoners, and people living with drug addictions, who receive little information on HIV/AIDS and addiction-related risks. Through the training of women volunteers, it will promote self-protection, and public awareness of consultancy centres and clinics.
In Lesotho, one of the countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, there is a rising critical shortage of blood donations. In partnership with the government, Red Cross youth action teams will be formed and trained to work closely with blood banks and hospitals, by recruiting regular voluntary donors and establishing blood donor clubs at a community level.
Blood collection is also an issue in Ecuador, where the National Society will use grant money to improve the quality of donor recruitment strategies, develop communication for behavioural change – with a focus on youth – and strengthen the Club 25 strategy (an international youth programme focusing on saving lives by giving blood and endorsing a healthier lifestyle).
Malaria is the main health problem in Sudan, with 7.5 million cases and 35,000 deaths per year, affecting mainly high risk populations such as children under the age of five and pregnant women. The Northern state, along the River Nile, is one of the most affected areas. The programme aims to decrease the number of malaria-related deaths among pregnant women and children in the region, by distributing 40,000 mosquito nets and organising awareness campaigns.
In Uzbekistan, over 250 mercy sisters from the Uzbekistan Red Crescent Society regularly deliver home-based medico-social assistance and care to vulnerable people, whether they are lonely, elderly, disabled or in financial need.
The scope of their action is limited due to a lack of basic items. The Empress Shôken Fund allocation will strengthen the capacity of 60 of them by organising two training sessions and providing them with medical equipment and public health documentation support.
The Honduran Red Cross has limited means to provide ongoing training to its volunteers and information to the communities with which it works. The funded programme will allow the National Society to strengthen its dissemination programme and institutionalise training structures on principles, values and international humanitarian law. It will enhance the image of the Red Cross and decrease emblem misuse throughout the country.
In Burkina Faso, 60 teachers will be trained in talking to young people about child abuse and manipulation. The programme is expected to benefit 6,000 students.
The Empress Shôken Fund grant, will enable the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina to put an educational centre into function in Sarajevo, to train Red Cross staff and volunteers. In parallel, the Banja Luka Red Cross Youth Club will renovate and transform their premises to create a training centre.
In both facilities, activities will focus on education and training of youth through workshops and seminars on health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, addiction, blood donation aw areness, and first aid.
Finally, the Jordan Red Crescent Society programme is focusing on disaster prevention. Most of Jordan’s neighbouring countries are currently suffering from on-going conflicts that lead to instability and tension in the region.
The programme will strengthen the National Intervention Team’s capacity to be in a better position to respond to the evolving needs of vulnerable people, by conducting an operational disaster simulation. They will be provided with specialised disaster management training and equipment.