JOHANNESBURG — Conflict-torn Central African Republic is seeing the highest number of displaced people since fighting erupted there in 2013.

The United Nations refugee agency says more than 688,000 people were displaced inside the country as of the end of 2017, a 60 percent jump from the year before.

In addition, more than 540,000 people have fled the impoverished nation where sectarian violence continues.

U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that “for a country whose population is estimated at around 4.6 million, these two figures combined represent an astonishing level of suffering.”

Central African Republic saw new fighting in its southeast early last year. Now violence has erupted in the northwest, sending more than 17,000 people fleeing to neighboring Chad.

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