Empress Shôken Fund announces 103rd funding distribution to support projects in 17 countries

The Joint Commission of the Empress Shoken Fund (ESF ) has announced a new funding distribution that totals CHF 485,597 and supports projects administered by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in 17 countries. The commission is administered by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The projects to be supported cover a variety of topics, including youth, first aid and rescue, disaster preparedness, dissemination of humanitarian ideals, blood transfusion services and National Society development.

The countries where the projects are being implemented are Algeria, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Montenegro, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, South Africa and Vanuatu.

ESF received 60 applications in 2023 for the 103rd distribution of income, representing the largest number of applications ever received, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally.

While the quality of applications submitted increases each year thanks to various learning supports, they also present more innovative proposals, confirming the need for ESF to support innovation/experimentation and learning within National Societies.

With a total value of over 14 Million Swiss francs, ESF 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, over CHF 16 million have been allocated to 172 National Societies.The grants are announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.

Increasingly, ESF encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate learnings and insights that will benefit individual National Societies and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as a whole.

The 2024 grants

ESF continues to encourage new approaches with an emphasis on innovation and learning. For the second consecutive year, National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches.

Using a pilot methodology, awardees can also potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources following their ESF pilot. In this category, details of the selected initiatives and their respective initiatives are as follows below.


Improving sexual and reproductive health in populations is such an important area of work. Chile has very high levels of sexually transmitted infection transmission and unwanted pregnancies. The Chilean Red Cross plans to use the funds to implement projects focused on education and public awareness aimed at young people, and in so doing, help bring down the incidents of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.


Access to timely, affordable physical and mental health services can be a challenge for so many in Colombia as with elsewhere. The Colombian Red Cross plans to pilot faster and cheaper annual health cover to underserved families, and in so doing, better position the Red Cross as a health service provider, as well as generating funds to reinvest in humanitarian work.


The renewed hostilities between Israel and Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip have left a profound impact on the populations of neighbouring countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. In Lebanon, the southern border was heavily affected, causing the displacement of people and loss of households, which has left a permanent mark on its citizens. This is why the Lebanese Red Cross plans to tackle, thanks to the ESF grant, the repercussions on the youth linked to the persistent violations of international humanitarian law, to reignite a sense of purpose, resilience and belief in positive change. The initiative will act as a pilot to integrate new tools such as virtual reality in terms of enhancing the understanding of certain concepts as well as motivate engagement.

Papua New Guinea

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society will establish a youth emergency team to help empower youth from marginalized and vulnerable communities. Youth will develop crucial life skills, preparing them to handle emergencies, promote health and safety, and lead in community development and disaster preparedness.

South Africa

Complementing the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) initiative, the South African Red Cross Society will use their grant to minimize the exposure and risk of informal settlements to fires by piloting innovative solutions including the installation of smoke alarms. The South African Red Cross Society also plans to benefit from visibility and peer learning from the Kenya Red Cross Society, which has successfully minimized such risks in informal communities.

The other groups of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to youth, first aid and rescue, disaster preparedness, dissemination of humanitarian ideals, blood transfusion services and National Society development as follows:


The Algerian Red Crescent will use the grant to develop an online platform/application designed in addition to be a media hub (collection of important information related to volunteers, first aid procedures, emergency rescue protocols, etc.) to act as a recruitment tool for volunteers, facilitating trainings and integration.


Ensuring leaders of the future are developed in National Societies is a key topic. Some National Societies have very large numbers of youth volunteers. The Bolivian Red Cross, 75 per cent of whose volunteers are youth, will be promoting youth leadership and participation through a structured training programme that they will use to develop their National Society’s leaders of the future, for which the Leadership Skills Development programme of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will be used. A study will also be undertaken to explore tools and methodologies appropriate for today’s youth. Solferino Academy’s 100 Ideas system will be closely linked.


Continued investment in and upskilling of volunteers is so important for many reasons, not least to help ensure volunteers are motivated. The Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan plans to create a studio where National Society volunteers are trained to develop coding, web development, video and podcasting skills that they will then in turn use to upskill other volunteers.


Lesotho has been affected by severe impacts of climate change such as droughts, hailstorms, snowstorms, heavy rainfall and early frost. Hence, an effective early warning system (EWS) is needed. The Lesotho Red Cross Society will use the grant to reach majority of the population through a mobile-based EWS connected to the emergency centre. Prior to official use of the EWS, a simulation exercise will be done targeting key beneficiaries. Learnings from the simulation exercise will later be adopted in the overall system.


In a bid to increase accessibility to much needed educational opportunities for the visually impaired and to promote independence and equality among all, the Lithuanian Red Cross Society will pilot a board game using braille, through which practical and life skills will be learned (e.g. emergency response and first aid).


Faced with the challenges related to domestic accidents and medical emergencies, the Mali Red Cross aims to use the grant to raise awareness and train youth on first aid using innovative methods. For example, some of the approaches that will be tested will compare different trained groups in order to measure the level of uptake.


Youth empowerment in the Malta Red Cross Society, as with all National Societies, is a constant need. A pilot will be developed putting disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in charge of recreational water activities.


The Mauritanian Red Crescent, thanks to the grant, will strengthen the preparedness and response capacities of communities to food and nutrition crises in the agro-pastoral livelihood areas of Mauritania by integrating the national EWS.


Blood donation in Montenegro suffers from significant challenges. The Red Cross of Montenegro is committing to develop a resilient connected and responsive blood donation community focusing on youth engagement, donor recognition and community-based events.


To reduce the challenges of the impacts related to climate change impacts in Nigeria, the Nigerian Red Cross Societywill use the grant to focus on youth-led climate action to raise awareness in communities.


The grant will address critical gaps in first aid knowledge and emergency response preparedness within Rwandan communities, particularly focusing on school-based youth clubs and Rwandan Red Cross Society volunteers.


By integrating gender-based violence considerations into disaster training, tools and frameworks at the community level, the Vanuatu Red Cross Society aims to amplify efforts to address gender-based violence in emergency situations in targeted provinces.

ESF and learning

ESF constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The theory of change for ESF is being explored to better understand the key drivers of success for innovation to thrive in National Societies. One area that will be augmented will be innovation and learning support to complement the funds received by a National Society. This innovation and learning support approach will be developed and piloted with the 103rd distribution awardees.

The hypothesis for the approach is as follows. Through ESF grants, awardees are given time and resources to experiment. Experimentation is an excellent opportunity to learn, and if the learning outcomes are appropriately captured, shared and used, the experimentation was worth the investment, and positive innovation experiences fosters cultures of innovation.

The innovation and learning support will be light-touch and is expected to focus on:

  • Providing frameworks around experimentation and capturing of learning.
  • Running an initial workshop where frameworks are presented and discussion is facilitated between awardees.
  • Providing further learning support in the form of communities of practice, knowledge packs and learning groups.

Running a closing workshop where learning is shared and consolidated for the benefit of the awardees and the wider Red Cross and Red Crescent network.

Learn more about the Empress Shoken Fund.

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