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Medical Teams International sends food, water in Japan relief effort

The nonprofit humanitarian aid group Medical Teams International is working with Japanese church partners to provide food, water and other necessities to survivors of Friday's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

The Tigard-based organization, which provides medical and humanitarian services to countries in need, is also working with relief efforts in Haiti which was rocked by a devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010.

The differences between the Haitian and Japanese earthquakes are great. The Japanese earthquake was much larger than Haiti's, MTI spokesman Marlene Minor said, but the country was in a better position to deal with earthquakes.

'Because Japan is so well equipped for earthquakes it wasn't so much the quake as the tsunami that followed that provided most of the damage,' Minor said. 'Japan is incredibly equipped for quakes.'

After the Haitian earthquake MTI sent dozens of teams of medical professionals to the country to help treat the wounded. A team of doctors and nurses recently returned from treating victims in Libya, where clashes with the ruling government have turned bloody.

Minor said that no such surge of medical professionals will be heading to Japan.

'There just isn't the need for our teams,' Minor said. 'The Japanese and US have some of the best teams already on site. Our teams aren't needed at this time.'

Instead, MTI is working with area churches to distribute food and water, which has been scarce in parts of the hardest stricken areas.

The church partners are establishing five bases of operation to provide help to survivors in five hard hit Japanese regions: Fukushima, South Sendai, North Senda, Minami Sanrikucho and Morioka, Hachinohe. Local volunteers will provide supplies that Medical Teams International purchases through cash donations.

'We talked with one of the churches we are working with last night, and they really need our help,' Minor said. 'They need money for them to truck in water for people. Water is their biggest need.'

Minor said that while many people want to send anything they can to help, what the country really needs is money.

'They really need the cash to be able to get those things as close to home as they can,' Minor said. 'By the time you pay for shipping from here they could have bought 10 times as much closer to them. It just isn't a good use of resources, though there are many people who want to do that.'

Donations to MTI can be made at www.medicalteams.org .