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World Health Organization fires high Western Pacific official after he was accused of racist, abusive conduct

The World Health Organization has fired its high official within the Western Pacific after the Associated Press reported final yr that dozens of workers members accused him of racist, abusive and unethical conduct that will have compromised the U.N. well being company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an electronic mail despatched to workers on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned Dr. Takeshi Kasai’s appointment had been “terminated” after an inner investigation resulted in “findings of misconduct.”

Tedros didn’t check with Kasai by identify, referencing solely his title as regional director within the Western Pacific. It is the primary time in WHO’s historical past {that a} regional director has been dismissed.

“This has been an unprecedented and difficult journey for all of us,” Tedros wrote. He mentioned that the method of naming a brand new regional director for the Western Pacific would start subsequent month, with the election to be held in October.

The Japanese authorities, which supported Kasai’s nomination for the function, declined to remark.


A abstract of the inner WHO investigation introduced at a gathering of the company’s government board this week in Geneva discovered Kasai recurrently harassed employees in Asia, together with participating in “aggressive communication, public humiliation, (and) making racial feedback.”

Senior WHO administrators instructed the group’s high governing physique that Kasai had created a “poisonous ambiance,” that workers members have been afraid of retaliation in the event that they spoke out in opposition to him and that there was a “lack of belief” in WHO.

The officers additionally discovered Kasai manipulated at the least one efficiency analysis of a subordinate, in line with confidential supplies obtained by the AP.

Kasai’s elimination follows an AP investigation revealed in January 2022 that exposed greater than 30 unidentified WHO staffers despatched a written grievance in regards to the director to senior WHO leaders and members of the group’s government board.

World Health Organization Regional Director for Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai addresses the media on Oct. 7, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. The World Health Organization on March 8, 2023, has fired Kasai after dozens of staffers accused him of racist, abusive, and unethical behavior.

World Health Organization Regional Director for Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai addresses the media on Oct. 7, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. The World Health Organization on March 8, 2023, has fired Kasai after dozens of staffers accused him of racist, abusive, and unethical conduct. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

Documents and recordings confirmed Kasai made racist remarks to his workers and blamed the rise of COVID-19 in some Pacific nations on their “lack of capability as a result of their inferior tradition, race and socioeconomic stage.”

Several WHO staffers working underneath Kasai mentioned he improperly shared delicate COVID vaccine data to assist Japan, his residence nation, rating political factors with focused donations. Kasai is a Japanese physician who labored in his nation’s public well being system earlier than shifting to WHO, the place he has been for greater than 15 years.


Days after the AP report, WHO chief Tedros introduced that an inner probe into Kasai had begun. Tedros knowledgeable workers in an August electronic mail that Kasai was “on go away” and one other senior official was dispatched to interchange him briefly.

The termination of such a high-level official stands in stark distinction to WHO’s reluctance to punish different perpetrators of abusive and generally unlawful conduct, together with sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the 2018-2020 Ebola epidemic in Congo.

More than 80 outbreak responders working primarily underneath WHO’s path sexually abused or exploited weak ladies; an AP investigation discovered senior WHO administration was knowledgeable of a number of exploitation claims in 2019 however refused to behave and even promoted one of many managers concerned.

A current inner U.N. report discovered the company’s response to at least one case of alleged exploitation didn’t violate the principles due to a loophole in how WHO defines victims, a discovering unbiased consultants described as “an absurdity.”

No senior WHO officers linked to the sexual abuse in Congo have been fired regardless of Tedros’ insistence the company has “zero tolerance” for misconduct.

“What we want now could be consistency in how WHO applies the principles on abuse,” mentioned Sophie Harman, a professor of worldwide politics at Queen Mary University of London. “The survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation from (Congo) are nonetheless searching for justice; the WHO has to point out them that they matter.”

In January, the AP reported {that a} WHO physician hoping to interchange Kasai as regional director within the Western Pacific had beforehand confronted sexual misconduct accusations.

Internal paperwork confirmed senior WHO managers have been conscious of previous sexual harassment claims involving Fijian doctor Temo Waqanivalu, who additionally was accused of assaulting a lady at a Berlin convention. With help of some WHO colleagues and his residence nation, Waqanivalu was getting ready to run for the regional director job.

Javier Guzman, of the Center for Global Development, mentioned a sturdy inner justice system at WHO was nonetheless missing.

“Making selections on excessive stage instances such because the one on Dr Kasai is just not sufficient,” Guzman mentioned. “WHO and Dr. Tedros ought to do higher to ensure that the zero-tolerance coverage is actual.”

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