NEW YORK, NY: April 21, 2017. The United Nations is to cut its aircraft fleet and limit passenger flights to essential travel only, after revealing the organization spent close to US$750 million from 2015 to 2016 on air assets for its peacekeeping and political missions.

The UN currently deploys 58 fixed-wing and 157 helicopters in 12 peacekeeping and six special political missions.

U.N. secretary general António Guterres has asked the heads of U.N. field missions to analyze and adjust the composition and utilization of the current air fleet and seek "alternative solutions that may be more cost-effective".

UN air fleet"While these assets provide essential logistics and military enabling capabilities, given their significant cost implications, the policy change is part of an ongoing review of costs and the use of resources provided by Member States," said a spokesperson.

According to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), an initiative involving the advance positioning of food has enabled the organization to deliver 1.4 million tonnes in 45 days, a 63 percent reduction in delivery times.

With Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen facing the threat of famine, and famine already declared in parts of South Sudan, its Global Commodity Management Facility "is one of the most remarkable changes we have had in 50 years of WFP's history," said WFP Ethiopia director John Aylieff. "This literally saves lives."

Based on predictions of demand in a pool of countries, WFP releases funds to buy food in advance of a request. This means shipments will be already at the delivery port, or at an advanced stage in the supply chain process, when country offices need them.

Ethiopia is by far the largest user of the facility. Last year its cash purchases of 400,000 tonnes of food led to a 90 percent reduction in distribution lead-times.

Member States supporting the initiative include Canada, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

On any given day, WFP has 20 ships, 70 planes and 5,000 trucks on the move. Every year, it distributes approximately 12.6 billion rations at an estimated average cost per ration of US$ 0.31.