WATCH: Since 2013, Marcus Bleasdale has documented the harrowing conflict in CAR for Human Rights Watch and National Geographic. Viewer discretion is advised.

In recent years the Central African Republic (CAR) has posed some of the most vexing questions in Africa: How does a relatively large country (roughly the size of France), with a small population (4.5 million) and vast resources (including gold, diamonds, and timber), become a failed state? How does a place that has avoided major conflicts over its 57 years of independence and one that was most often seen as a haven for refugees from neighboring war-torn countries suddenly find itself become a killing ground?

Seeking answers to these questions, photographer Marcus Bleasdale and writer Peter Gwin traveled throughout the Central African Republic as it has reeled from a brutal civil war that has left thousands of its citizens dead, nearly a million displaced, and the nation’s meager infrastructure in ruins. Their story, "The Burning Heart of Africa," appears in the May issue of National Geographic magazine.

During his years of reporting, Bleasdale also captured numerous hours of video footage that documents the unfolding of the conflict and provides an intimate look beyond the headlines. This is a view into the daily lives of the people trapped in the chaotic disintegration of their country and their determination to survive and rebuild.

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