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WHO fires Asia chief for racism, abuse and unethical behavior

Takeshi Kasai
via World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific

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    More than a year after being accused of racist, abusive and unethical behavior, Dr. Kasai Takeshi has reportedly been fired from his position as director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Western Pacific region.

    Staffers first brought up the allegations against Kasai in an internal complaint in October 2021. They accused the Japanese chief of making racist remarks toward Filipinos, blaming “inferior” countries for COVID-19 surges and sharing data with Japan to assist in vaccination planning.

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced Kasai’s termination in an email to employees on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Internal investigation, he said, revealed “findings of misconduct.”

    Kasai was found to have engaged in “aggressive communication, public humiliation, [and] making racial comments,” as well as manipulating at least one performance evaluation of a subordinate, according to the AP.

    He was also blamed for creating a “toxic atmosphere” in which staffers feared speaking out against him and felt a “lack of trust” in their organization.

    In one reported incident, Kasai questioned a female Filipino staffer, “How many people in the Pacific have you killed so far, and how many more do you want to kill further?” He then asked if she was “incapable of delivering good presentations because she was a Filipina.”

    Kasai, who assumed the role in January 2019, has vehemently rejected the allegations, going only as far as admitting he has been “hard on staff.”

    He refuted targeting “any particular nationality” and denied pressuring his staff to “facilitate donations from Japan rather than COVAX.”

    In April 2022, employees alleged that Kasai had been manipulating the investigation by ordering the destruction of incriminating documents and telling IT staff to monitor all employee emails. By August 2022, he was placed on indefinite leave.

    In the Wednesday email, Tedros reportedly described Kasai’s dismissal as “an unprecedented and challenging journey for all of us.”

    He did not include Kasai’s name, choosing instead to use his title as Western Pacific regional director when referencing the dismissed official.

    The director-general also shared that the search for Kasai’s replacement will begin next month, followed by an election in October.

    The Western Pacific office covers 37 countries and territories. Zsuzsanna Jakab, deputy director-general at WHO, is serving as acting regional director until the election, according to Kyodo News.


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