Bill Ashton-International Service Award for Polio-Free World

 
   
 
One of 10 in the world, Davenport Rotarian honored at conference
 
Davenport Rotarian William D. (Bill) Ashton was honored with one of the most important awards presented by The Rotary Foundation, one of only ten recipients in the world, the International Service Award for a Polio-Free World, in recognition of his significant contributions to the effort to eradicate polio.  The award was presented during the Rotary District 6000 annual conference held at the Coralville Marriott last Friday, May 5 by District Governor Chris Knapp of Iowa City. 
Ashton assembled, arranged all details and led the first district only National Immunization Day (NID) team to India for twelve adults and two high school students to immunize thousands of young children against polio in 2000.  The two -week mission included delivering immunizations to underserved remote villages where the team could also learn of other needs that could be addressed by partner Rotary clubs in India.  As the first such international service mission, it provided a major stimulus to the awareness and commitment of District 6000 Rotarians to humanitarian service through matching grants.
As a result of the needs identified by the team in India, District 6000 became the first district to develop matching grants with partner Rotary District 3060 in India to directly support polio immunization and complementary projects.  Over the 10 years following that NID, the Rotary Club of Davenport partnered with 29 different Indian Rotary clubs on grant projects and sponsored 61 humanitarian service projects in total in developing countries on four continents.
 Through its “PolioPlus” campaign, Rotary International has been a leader in the effort to eradicate polio since 1985 and India was declared polio free in 2014.  Only two countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan, still have endemic polio and only five cases of the crippling disease have been identified this calendar year in those countries.  The complete eradication of the polio is “this close” which would make it only the second disease following smallpox to be eliminated from the world.
Since 1985, two billion children have been protected from polio; preventing 500,000 new cases annually.  Five million people who might otherwise have been paralyzed are living normal lives thanks to Rotary International and its partners in the polio eradication effort, the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and more recently the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.