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Haiti earthquake: religion fills the void left by aid agencies

A fierce gust of wind lashes across the sprawling camp, carrying with it the ­bitter aroma of pepper spray and faeces. Above, Black Hawk helicopters clatter through the cobalt blue sky. On the ground clusters of homeless Haitians with hammers and rusty saws set about cobbling together improvised shacks out of corrugated iron and shreds of plastic sheeting.

Welcome to Pont-Rouge, a refugee camp for about 15,000 displaced people, and one of Port-au-Prince's most recent shanty towns. It is here, on waste land near the city's international airport, among rickety shacks and smouldering campfires, that an evangelical revolution is gathering speed.

With the government's presence all but invisible, and humanitarian agencies and the UN struggling to cope with the demand for aid, groups of preachers are moving in to fill the void.

"I've started a school and we are trying to give people food and clothes," said ­Reverend Sauverne Apollon, 75, whose church – the Eglise Mission foi Caribéenne Independence d'Haiti – was one of the first to be constructed in the slum after its ­headquarters was destroyed in the quake.

"The people need hospital help, food and homes. I'm trying to do what I can," Apollon added.

As he spoke, UN troops used pepper spray and rubber bullets to contain ­Pont-Rouge's residents who were crushing together in their thousands in a queue for water and food. ­Peruvian soldiers from the UN stablisation force waved their ­shotguns about in an attempt to repel children who were ­trying to push into the seemingly ­endless queue.
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