An estimated 1500 boys have been verified as child soldiers in Yemen, but the actual number of children who have been drawn into the war is probably far higher, a United Nations spokeswoman said yesterday.

Most of the boys were recruited by Houthi rebels over the past three years, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Recruiters often entice the boys by promising them financial rewards or social status. "Many are then quickly sent to the front lines of the conflict or tasked with manning checkpoints," Shamdasani said.

All child soldiers in Yemen must be immediately released, the UN human rights office demanded.


Meanwhile, Yemen has food reserves for only two to four months, bringing it to the brink of famine as fighting escalates, a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on his return from the country, which is on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, called for the lifting of restrictions on the import and movement of goods and voiced concern at the fate of 500,000 people in the port city of Hodeidah as the conflict moves north up the Red Sea coast.

The "lifeline" of aid moving through Hodeidah and other ports is starting to be cut, Mardini told reporters.

"If this happens of course it will add a huge burden on a swathe of the Yemen territory where millions of people live."

According to the UN, almost 19 million people in Yemen need humanitarian assistance.

The war in Yemen killed 4667 civilians and injured 8180 others between March 2015 and February 23, according to the latest UN count.

Meanwhile, the UN's aid chief had to cancel a planned visit to the southwestern city of Taiz yesterday because of a lack of access. Stephen O'Brien, who has been visiting different cities, said on Twitter that "a lack of access equals more suffering".

The conflict in Yemen started when the Houthis pushed towards the capital Sana'a in early 2014.

In March 2015, they forced President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee, sparking a Saudi-led air campaign in support of government forces.Reuters, dpa