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Medical Teams International arrives in Poland, assessing how to help those fleeing Ukraine

The Tigard-based nonprofit hopes to provide medical care and supplies to displaced Ukrainians.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tigard-based nonprofit Medical Teams International is responding to the evolving crisis in Ukraine with supplies and medical workers. The first few team members arrived in the region late this week.

“You can read the news and think it may be one thing, then you get on the ground, and you realize it is something very different,” said Sara Phillips, senior response manager with Medical Teams International.

Since arriving in Krakow, Poland on Thursday, Phillips has met with government officials, nonprofits and other contacts to evaluate where help is needed most.

“One thing I’m really struck by is how the community and neighboring countries are showing up,” said Phillips.

Local churches, community groups and the government in neighboring countries like Poland have provided aid, explained Phillips. But soon, she worries these local humanitarian efforts may be overwhelmed due to the sheer number of refugees fleeing Ukraine.

This week, the United Nations estimated that 12 million people in Ukraine and 4 million refugees could need relief and protection in the coming months.

RELATED: Refugees fleeing Ukraine grab documents, pets, some photos

Phillips, along with Roger Sandberg, vice president of operations for Medical Teams International, plan to travel to Romania on Sunday to assess conditions.

“In the very beginning, there’s a lot of coordinating,” said Sandberg before leaving PDX earlier this week. “Who is needed where, doing what?”

Sandberg explained Medical Teams International hopes to provide medical care to displaced Ukrainians in the coming weeks.

“We’ve got a roster that is ready to respond,” said Sandberg. “We just have to make sure that it is all in alignment with the needs and what the governments are going to allow.”

Since 1979, Medical Teams International has provided medical care for people in crisis due to conflicts and natural disasters around the world.

Earlier this week, the nonprofit sent 26 pallets of medical supplies, including sutures, surgical kits and medical drapes to be distributed to health centers in Ukraine.

RELATED: Rally in downtown Portland draws support for Ukraine

A third team member from Medical Teams International is expected to arrive in the region next week to help evaluate where resources are needed most.

Unlike larger non-governmental organizations, known as NGOs, Medical Teams International said its smaller teams can shift resources easily.

“One of the things we can offer is our agility and ability to pivot very quickly,” said Phillips. “Maybe a new border crossing has opened. There are 1,000 people coming across the border and we’ve got to set up within 24 hours in a new spot.”

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