An armed Yemeni boy loyal to the Houthi movement sits amid rubble in Sanaa on December 5, 2014.

Story highlights

UNICEF: 318 children were recruited and used by armed groups

The United Nations Children's Fund calls for a pause in the fighting for holy month of Ramadan

Latest bout of fighting escalated in March this year

CNN —  

Almost four times as many children have died in the past 10 weeks as a result of the conflict in Yemen as were killed in the whole of 2014, according to UNICEF.

At least 279 children have died since the latest violence escalated in March, compared to a total of 74 last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a statement.

Over the same 10 weeks, 402 were injured – with 244 injured last year, the statement said.

Some children have been drawn directly into the fighting between armed groups in Yemen. UNICEF said 318 children have been recruited and used to man checkpoints or carry arms this year – double last year’s number.

“Children continue to be killed, maimed or recruited to fight,” said Julien Harneis, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen. “They should be safely learning in school, not trying to escape bullets on the front lines.”

UNICEF is backing a call by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a pause in the fighting during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins Thursday.

A call to pause for Ramadan

Yemen has been torn by fighting between the Houthi Shiite militiamen and government forces loyal to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

Hadi fled the capital, Sanaa, in March.

Iran has been accused of backing the Houthi rebels – something it denies. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in a bid to counteract what it sees as Iranian influence in the region.