Minutes after giving birth in the Shivgarh district community hospital in India, new mothers walk down a dark hallway to the maternity ward, a small room crowded with four narrow metal-frame beds. Stained sheets cover the thin plastic mattresses. In this grim setting, a colorful poster taped to the wall features a beaming mom snuggling her baby, along with the message, “In the first hour, a mother can change the fate of her child.”

Simple drawings illustrate basic steps that will give the babies a healthy start in life. Sushma, one of the new mothers, recognizes these practices from the women in her village, Rampur Khas. Whenever they meet, on the verandas of their homes or in the fields where they work, the women remind one another of what they can do differently so fewer of their children will die.

This excerpt from “India: Doing the Right Things” is part of Pulitzer Center grantee Roger Thurow’s project 1,000 Days: To Save Women, Children and the World.


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