DUBAI: Nearly 1,500 children have been recruited by Yemen's warring parties, mostly the Shiite Huthi rebels, since March 2015, the UN said on Tuesday.
The UN has verified the recruitment of 1,476 children, all boys, between 26 March 2015 and 31 January 2017, said a statement by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani.
"The numbers are likely to be much higher as most families are not willing to talk about the recruitment of their children, for fear of reprisals," she said.
"Just last week, we received new reports of children who were recruited without the knowledge of their families," she said, adding that children under 18 are either being "misled or attracted by promises of financial rewards or social status."
UN urges aid access to Yemen ports to avert looming famine
The Iran-backed Huthis and their allies overran the capital Sanaa in 2014 before sweeping south, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led Arab coalition began a military campaign against the rebels in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
"We remind all parties to the conflict that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is strictly forbidden by international human rights law and international humanitarian law," said Shamdasani.
Jailed in Yemen: Seven fishermen return home after 10 years
The recruitment of children under 15 "may amount to a war crime," she added.
"We urge them to immediately release such children."
Shamdasani said 4,667 civilians had been killed in the conflict since March 2015, while 8,180 others were wounded.
In total, the UN says that more than 7,500 people have been killed in the war and 40,000 others wounded.