CNN) – As the violence in the Central African Republic reaches unprecedented levels, aid organizations say the number of internally displaced people edges toward a million, further hampering humanitarian relief efforts.
The nearly 935,000 displaced people are hiding in bushes and seeking refuge with host families, and churches and schools have been turned in to makeshift shelters. More than half the population of the capital city of Bangui has been displaced, and nearly 60% of them are displaced children, according to the latest report from UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency.
Since March, violence has gripped the Central African Republic, CAR.
Aboubakar Daoud, 33, has spent the last 15 years of his life as a shopkeeper in the country. He says life was very good, his business was thriving and everyone was living in peace. But all of that is now just a memory.
“The situation is very precarious for Muslims and particularly for Chadians, even for those who got married with the Chadians,” he said.
After the predominantly Muslim-backed Seleka militia and other rebel groups from the marginalized northeast seized Bangui, one of the Seleka leaders, Michel Djotodia, overthrew President Francois Bozize, who fled to Cameroon, creating a political power struggle.
Under Djotodia’s interim presidency and transitional governance, Human Rights Watch has reported details of the Seleka’s deliberate killing of civilians, including women, children and the elderly. The rights group also reported in recent weeks that violence and insecurity in the Central African Republic have taken on an alarming sectarian dimension.
Backlash set in when Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka and, according to rights groups, thousands of Seleka rebels kept their arms and formed their own vigilante group known as the “ex-Seleka.” That group has since been integrated into a new “national army.”
Human Rights Watch says command and control of the ex-Seleka remain questionable as the group continues to commit abuses in the Central African Republic. All the while, the anti-balaka — a predominantly Christian armed group created by then-President Bozize to fight banditry — continues to attack Muslim civilians in response to ex-Seleka abuses.
Residents say the violence between the Muslim Seleka militias and the retaliating Christian groups has wreaked havoc in cities across the Central African Republic.
(CNN’s Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.)