The project aims to cut infant deaths in the district, according to the local authority boss, Edward Pise. He said the project was launched because most rural women and could not afford to pay for maternity services.
Pise said they were also trying to reduce cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by offering free voluntary counselling and testing at their clinics.
“We have taken the issue of HIV as priority in our development programmes. We realised that if we offer free maternity, we encourage women to come for testing so that they know their status before they deliver,” he said.
He added that the council’s health department had also been running HIV campaigns to encourage men to be part of the fight against the disease.
“We believe men have a critical role to play in the fight against HIV. We should not leave it to women alone,” he said.
Pise paid tribute to the Health Transition Fund, which was introduced during the inclusive government, for helping in the development of health centres in Makoni.
Through the fund, Pise said, some local health centres now had electricity and access to clean water. “We are grateful to the fund because it has helped change lives of our people in a big way,” said Pise.
In Mutare, many women deliver their babies in unhealthy conditions because of the high cost of maternity fees in government hospitals. Others opt to travel long distances to the United Methodist owned Old Mutare mission hospital where services are free.
According to Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, the country`s maternal mortality stands at 960 per 10,000.
Health and childcare minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the figures were a cause for concern, adding that Manicaland carried the heavy burden of high maternal mortality.