From Ebola to COVID-19, epidemics are fueled by fear and misinformation. Vaccines are refused; people protest unwanted public health measures; and in the chaos generated by traditional and social media, viruses keep spreading. So, how do we fix a global response system for epidemics in which many citizens all over the world have lost trust in politicians, scientists, media and health professionals?

We need to break from the belief that top-down solutions, global approaches and biomedical interventions alone will end an epidemic or even a pandemic. We need to restart from the people and from local communities.

Politicians, scientists, health professionals have to stop telling people what to do and they need to listen more to affected people. They need to understand and address people’s fears, concerns and needs in an empathetic and practical way. Because the world will stop COVID-19 and future epidemics only if communities are fully engaged as part of a collective response against viruses that represent a threat to all humanity.

To that aim, citizens’ trust is key. Emanuele is a medical doctor and a public health specialist who has been fighting viruses and bacteria for the past twenty years. He has worked with the World Health Organization on tuberculosis in nomadic populations in Somalia, with the World Bank to stop the spread of HIV in Afghan prisons, and with UNICEF to contain cholera outbreaks in Mozambique.

For the past four years Emanuele has been based in Geneva leading the Health and Care Department of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He has managed the response to several Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been involved in refugee crises in South Asia and Latin America and has led the humanitarian response to various natural disasters. He is currently coordinating the global technical response to COVID-19 by supporting 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies that provide health and socio-economic interventions to hundreds of millions of people in all continents of the world.

Emanuele is a traveller, the proud father of three girls, an aspiring triathlete, and an impatient optimist. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community