Staffers accuse top WHO official in Western Pacific of racism, abuse
Current and former World Health Organization (WHO) staff members have accused the organization’s regional director of the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai, of abusive, racist and unethical behavior which they say has negatively impacted the agency’s ability to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from The Associated Press.
The accusations were originally made in an internal WHO complaint in October but were made again last week by “concerned” members of the staff, according to the news outlet.
The complaint against Kasai was sent out by an anonymous group — who did not name themselves out of “fear of retaliation” — to the executive board and was obtained by the AP. One author of the complaint said that over 30 staffers were involved in the complaint’s submission and that the email referred to over 50 people’s experiences with Kasai.
The email outlined a “toxic atmosphere,” with a “culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing,” at the WHO department Kasai headed in Manila. The Western Pacific headquarters for the WHO covers a broad region, including China and Kasai’s home nation, Japan, the AP reports.
In addition to the “toxic atmosphere” and “systemic bullying,” eleven staffers who formerly worked for Kasai also alleged that he frequently used racist language.
In the email, it is alleged that Kasai had once aggressively interrogated a Filipino staffer while speaking at a COVID-19 meeting.
“How many people in the Pacific have you killed so far and how many more do you want to kill further?” the complaint obtained by the AP said he said before asking, “if she was incapable of delivering good presentations because she was Filipina.”
The complaint noted that Kasai frequently used degrading marks about people from China, the Philippines and Malaysia and that at times, he would drive staffers to tears, the AP reports.
The unnamed staffers alleged that Kasai’s authoritarian leadership style led to the departure of over 55 staff members in his department, and many of them have yet to be replaced, notes the AP.
Kasai has denied the allegations in an email to the AP. He stated that he has taken action to communicate with his staff since the complaint was filed.
“I ask a lot of myself, and our staff,” Kasai said, per the AP. “This has particularly been the case during the COVID-19 response. But it should not result in people feeling disrespected.”