GENEVA, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Escalated fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) has caused more people to flee their homes and become internally displaced within the conflict-ridden country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.
Adrian Edwards, UNHCR's spokesman, told a press conference that as of May 2, more than 23,000 people were displaced in the Kaga Bandoro area in the northern CAR, and the level nearly doubled compared to a month earlier.
"With further fighting in the past week, more people have had to flee their homes, although at present humanitarian agencies are blocked from being able to verify exact numbers," said Edwards.
He noted that most of the displaced were Christians, mainly women and children, and many of the men hid due to fear of attack by armed groups.
New displacements were also being seen in the north-west of the country, where UNHCR registered 2,445 displaced people in Paoua in Ouham Pende prefecture following an attack in early May on a nearby village.
"The displaced urgently need physical protection, food, non-food items, water and sanitation, and other help," Edwards warned, having noted a high prevalence of diarrhoea already being reported among children.
UNHCR, in collaboration with other UN agencies, was providing shelter and non-food assistance, including tarpaulins, blankets, mats and kitchen sets.
"We continue to reiterate our call to all parties in this conflict to allow access to internally-displaced persons and permit the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid," he said.
The UN refugee agency urged authorities in Chad to continue providing access to its territory for people fleeing CAR and in need of safe havens, as well as proper access to asylum procedures. Chad shares a borderline with the northern CAR where stepped-up fighting has been reported. The country has accommodated some 8,000 refugees from CAR since the beginning of the conflict.
UNHCR statistics show the conflict in CAR -- which began in December last year between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and anti-Balaka Christians -- displaced 560,000 people within the country, and forced more than 115,500 people to flee to neighboring countries including Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo.