In the News

Paul Wise heads up global initiative to boost humanitarian health response to violent conflict

Beth Duff-Brown
Stanford CHP News
Paul Wise treating a child in a rural village in Guatemala
Dr. Paul Wise examines a boy in the community of Nueva Vida, Guatemala. Nicole Feldman/Stanford Health Policy News.

Armed conflict continues its brutal march in Syria, Yemen, Southeast Asia and South Sudan — to name a few of the international hotspots that contributed to an 11% increase in political violence around the world in 2018.

Nearly 10 million Yemenis are facing famine this year; Syria was the deadliest place on earth for civilians last year, with more than 7,100 fatalities.

Many of those killed — and even more who face starvation — are children. And that’s when Stanford professor of pediatrics Paul Wise finds it hard to stand on the sidelines. Wise, who has traveled to Guatemala annually for the last 40 years to treat children in rural communities, also travels to the frontlines of global calamities.

As part of a small team of physicians, Wise went to Mosul, the northern city in Iraq once controlled by ISIS, in 2017 to evaluate the World Health Organization-led system to treat civilians injured in the brutal battle for the city. 

Working with colleagues at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Wise has collaborated the U.S. military, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations on the interaction of humanitarian and security challenges.

So, it should come as no surprise that the American Academy of Arts & Sciences — of which he is a member — recently appointed him and two other global health experts to lead a new initiative to develop new strategies to protect civilians, health care and cultural heritage in areas of extreme violence. 

The initiative, Rethinking the Humanitarian Health Response to Violence Conflict, will be a collaboration among political scientists, international human rights lawyers, physicians, academics and even the curators of major museums. They will develop strategies to prevent civilian harm and deliver critical health services in areas plagued by violent conflict, most notably in the Middle East, central and north Africa and parts of Asia. 

“We also want to address the humanitarian and protective frameworks that operate in areas that are extremely violent but wouldn’t necessarily be defined as being in armed conflict, like in the northern triangle of Central America. The human toll in these areas is at least as great as some of these other more traditionally defined areas,” Wise said.

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View full story: Stanford CHP News