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WHO sacks director of Western Pacific over complaints of racial discrimination

After a report by AP revealed complaints of racial misconduct against Dr. Takeshi Kasai, director of West Pacific region headquartered in Manila, he was fired

The World Health Organization dismissed its chief representative in the Western Pacific after a US-based news agency revealed that dozens of employees had accused him of partaking in racist, abusive, and unethical behaviour that may have jeopardised the U.N. health agency’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a message to staff members on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that Dr. Takeshi Kasai, director of West Pacific region headquartered in Manila, has been terminated from his position due to findings of misconduct in an internal inquiry. The removal of a regional director is unprecedented in WHO history.

“This has been an unprecedented and challenging journey for all of us,” Tedros wrote. He announced that voting will start the next month to choose a new regional director for the Western Pacific region.

Kasai harassed employees in Asia on a daily basis, according to a summary of an internal WHO inquiry that was delivered at a meeting of the agency’s executive board this week in Geneva. This harassment included “aggressive communication, public humiliation, (and) making racial comments.”

Leading WHO directors complained that Kasai had cultivated a “toxic culture” and that employees were scared of reprisals to the organization’s highest governing body. If they denounced him, it would indicate that WHO was not trusted.

According to the reports, the authorities also discovered Kasai had falsified at least one performance review of a subordinate. Kasai was fired as a result of an Associated Press investigation that was published in January 2022. The research showed that more than 30 unnamed WHO employees had complained in writing about the director to top WHO officials and members of the organization’s executive board.

The report was based on an internal complaint filed against Kasai in October last year, which described a “toxic atmosphere” with “a culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing” at WHO’s Western Pacific headquarters in Manila, led by Dr. Takeshi Kasai.

The emergence of COVID-19 in several Pacific countries was attributed by Kasai to his employees’ “lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race, and socioeconomic level,” according to records and documents. Kasai also made racial remarks towards his workers.

Employees said that Kasai’s authoritarian style led to the departure of more than 55 key staff in the past year and a half, most of whom have not been replaced.

Kasai reportedly unlawfully communicated secret COVID vaccination information with other WHO employees so that his native Japan might use targeted contributions to gain political advantage. Dr. Kasai is a Japanese national who spent time in his nation’s public health system prior to joining WHO, where he has worked for more than 15 years.

Days following the AP article, WHO director Tedros said to the staff in an August email that Kasai was “on leave” and another senior official was dispatched to replace him temporarily.

An AP investigation discovered top WHO management was informed of several exploitation accusations in 2019 but refused to act and even promoted one of the managers implicated. More than 80 outbreak responders working largely under WHO’s guidance sexually assaulted or exploited vulnerable women.

Sophie Harman, a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London commented on the matter and said, “What we need now is consistency in how WHO applies the rules on abuse. The survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation from (Congo) are still looking for justice; the WHO has to show them that they matter.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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