One women dies every minute as a result of problems in pregnancy or childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths are avoidable. Yet on current trends the international target of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015 will be missed. Northern governments could transform the prospects of reaching the target by increasing the aid that they give to the poorest countries. It would cost $4bn extra aid a year to save half a million lives a year. Yet they have failed to act. The G8 countries should signal a shift in priorities by setting a timetable for meeting the UN target of devoting 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Product to aid for human development.