Regional WHO director accused of racist and unethical behavior

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


A regional director within the World Health Organization (WHO) is facing accusations about racist, unethical, and abusive behavior. Their concerns have been unaddressed by the organization for the past three months.

An Associated Press (AP) article on Thursday details how current and former WHO staff have accused Dr. Takeshi Kasai, regional director of the Western Pacific Headquarters in Manilla, of such errant behavior that has crippled COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts and resulted in the departure of up to 55 different staff members. 

“We request your urgent intervention to address our serious concerns,” declared the email originally sent to WHO senior officials and the executive board but obtained by the AP, before asserting that the director’s behavior was directly and negatively hampering the WHO’s effectiveness in the region against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The anonymous “concerned WHO staff” in particular alleged that Kasai made derogatory comments about staff from China, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Eleven former and current WHO staffers confirmed this directly to the news outlet.

Kasai was also heard making statements that COVID-19 cases in some countries were a “lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race and socioeconomic level” and that pandemic response efforts were setback by “a lack of sufficiently educated people in the Pacific.”

Other charges laid out in the emails sent to the WHO’s senior leadership and executive board also include that Kasai’s authoritarian and abusive tone resulted in 55 staff members quitting, many of whom were not replaced. This added to the confusion in responding to pandemic crises.

They also asserted unethical behavior from Kasai, who reportedly shared data from other countries with Japan, his home country, to give them political leverage in donating vaccinations to other Pacific countries.

While the emails were not signed by name, they claimed to have been written by thirty different staff members and representative of at least 50 individual experiences working under Kasai. The emails were sent both in October and last week.

Because Kasai is a regional director, he is held accountable only by the regional countries who elected him to his position and the executive board members. The concerned staffers asserted they had “exhaustively” filed complaints through WHO mechanisms without receiving any response. The doctor is currently available for re-election to his position next year.

Kasai unequivocally denied all the charges. In an official statement, he wrote, “I ask a lot of myself and our staff. This has particularly been the case during the COVID-19 response. But it should not result in people feeling disrespected.”

The director also denied “the suggestions” that he targeted staff based on their nationality. He stated, “Racism goes against all of the principles and values I hold dear as a person.”

WHO told Reuters on Thursday that the organization “is aware of the allegations and is taking all appropriate steps to follow up on the matter.” The regional director has signaled a willingness to cooperate with the investigation.

Last year, the WHO responded to sexual abuse allegations among its personnel in the Dominican Republican of Congo during the years of 2018-2020. While not reported in the original FISM article, the WHO’s investigation into allegations only occurred after an independent journalist investigation.