Over 210,000 displaced by CAR fighting, says UN refugee agency

Catholics pray on January 1, 2013 during a Mass for peace held at a cathedral in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic. In a matter of weeks, fighters from the CAR's Seleka rebel coalition took over large swathes of the impoverished equatorial country.
Sia Kambou

Over 210,000 people are believed to have been displaced by the heavy fighting in the past two weeks in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, the UN refugee agency said in a news release. 

"In Bangui, our staff are reporting continued shooting and a mood of widespread fear," said a UNHCR spokesman, adding that he and colleagues, as they traveled outside the city, "came across some 40,000 people who had been uprooted on the 5th and 6th of December, but who had been out of reach till now because of heavy fighting."

More from GlobalPost: The Central African Republic since French intervention 

The United Nations estimates that over 710,000 people have been forced to leave their homes since the current conflict began, while 75,000 more are currently in exile. Many of the refugees who have managed to escape the CAR to the Democratic Republic of the Congo have reported witnessing atrocities. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned this week that millions of people in the war-torn African nation could be at risk of food insecurity, unless assistance is provided before the start of the planting season. 

France has deployed 1,600 troops to assist with the worsening security situation between Muslim Seleka rebels and Christians in the CAR, and French requests for more assistance from the European Union may be coming to fruition. 

"We will soon have troops on the ground from our European colleagues," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday, according to Reuters, adding that the ground troops may hail from Belgium and Poland.