The director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai was accused of racist, abusive and unethical behaviour by several staffers, according to a report by news agency Associated Press.
The report outlined that more than 30 staffers raised the allegations in an internal complaint while saying that at least 50 staffers have experienced this first hand. The email highlighted that the Western Pacific headquarters of the WHO in Manila, Philippines has a culture of ‘systemic bullying and public ridiculing’ along with a ‘toxic atmosphere’. The Associated Press report also highlighted that the news agency accessed clips where Dr Kasai is heard making derogatory remarks about his own staff based on their nationality.
The allegations were first made in October 2021 via an internal complaint and were raised again last week by ‘concerned staff’. The senior leadership of the WHO and executive board were made aware of the developments, according to the report by AP.
Some of the staffers alleged that Dr Kasai’s behaviour led to the resignation of more than 55 staff and most of those staff have not been replaced. This led to lack of understanding and involvement with member countries, which according to the staffers, led to mismanagement in handling the pandemic. Some say that it also led to a surge in the number of cases in some regions. The staffers also said that the surges are also linked to other reasons as well.
Staffers highlighted that one staffer was reduced to tears after a verbal altercation with Dr Kasai. Another staffer highlighted that once during a meeting Dr Kasai aggressively questioned a Filipino official if they plan to ‘kill’ more people. “How many people in the Pacific have you killed so far and how many more do you want to kill further?” Kasai asked. He then said that the staffer was unable to deliver a good presentation because the staffer was a Filipino. It also said that he attributed the rise in the number of cases in certain countries to ‘lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race and socioeconomic level.’
Kasai also forced his own staffers to come to office when a strict lockdown was observed in Manila. He pressed them to car-pool and work from the office when the advisory was to work from home.
The staffers have also accused Dr Kasai of sharing sensitive vaccine information with Japan. Dr Kasai hails from Japan, one of the 37 nation members of the region.
Dr Kasai rejected the allegations when questioned by the Associated Press. “It is true that I have been hard on staff, but I reject the suggestion that I have targeted staff of any particular nationality. Racism goes against all of the principles and values I hold dear as a person. I believe deeply and sincerely in WHO’s mission to serve all countries and people,” he said.