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Scores of Christians on the Run as Violence Continues to Grip Central African Republic

NOTE TO THE READER: With the exception of the photographs below, this article originally appeared on CBNNEWS.COM

After five years of violence, hundreds of thousands of people in the Central African Republic are still on the run and facing growing food insecurity as political instability continues to grip the nation.

This photo, by African Wildlife Initiate photographer, was taken deep in rebel held territory in northern most region of Central African Republic in May 2017.

"Data as of the end of December shows that 688,700 people were displaced internally – 60 per cent more than just a year ago," said Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesperson.

violence erupted in 2013 when clashes broke out between a Muslim rebel group and predominately Christian fighters after then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting, including pastors, and several churches destroyed in the conflict.

Now the number of people fleeing the country has dramatically increased following a surge in violence in the country's north-west.

55-year-old Yazinon Florence, is among those who escaped. "We cannot say we live. We survive," the 55-year-old Ms. Florence told the Washingtom Times. "We pray to God that the war ceases and we return home."

This photo, also by African Wildlife Initiates photographer, was taken deep in rebel held territory in northern most region of Central African Republic in May 2017.

Ms. Florence and other Christians fled to a camp for internally displaced people near the main international airport in the capital city Bangui. "I saw Muslim women slaughtering Christian women and their babies with sharp knives like animals," Florence told the Times. "They even killed a pregnant woman in front of me."

French peacekeeping troops were initially protecting Florence's camp until late 2016 when they handed operations to the United Nations.

That didn't seem to make Florence of other resident feel safer.

Kongbe Simone lost three of his 10 children during an attack by Muslim soldiers near the airport. "Now we are abandoned in this neighborhood without any security and exposed to attacks from Muslims," Simone who was injured in the attack told the Washington Times. "We are scared. "I cannot run. In case of attack, death will find me on the spot."

According to the most recent figures, some 542,380 refugees have fled to neighboring countries of Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chad and the Republic of Congo representing a 12 percent increase compared to last year.

"For a country whose population is estimated at around 4.6 million, these two figures combined represent an astonishing level of suffering and people in need," Edwards added.

More than half of the country's population, roughly about 2.5 million people, are also in need of emergency food aid.

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