Report: W.H.O. Asia Chief Fostered Culture of Racism, ‘Systemic Bullying’

FILE – World Health Organization Regional Director for Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai addresses the media at the start of the five-day annual session Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. Current and former staffers have accused Kasai of racist, unethical and abusive behavior that has undermined the U.N. health agency’s …
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File

World Health Organization (W.H.O.) staffers based at the organization’s Western Pacific headquarters in Manila recently accused the region’s W.H.O. chief, Takeshi Kasai, of blaming a rise in coronavirus cases in some Asian countries on their populations’ “lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race and socioeconomic level,” the Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday.

W.H.O. staffers made the allegation “in an internal complaint filed in October [2021] and again in an email last week” that they subsequently sent to senior W.H.O. leadership according to the AP, which obtained and reviewed the documents.

The complaint alleges that Kasai, an ethnic East Asian from Japan, demonstrated racism against people native to Asian countries such as China, Malaysia, and the Philippines. China is an East Asian nation while the Philippines and Malaysia are both located in Southeast Asia.

“Kasai said repeatedly in meetings that the COVID [Chinese coronavirus] response was hampered by ‘a lack of sufficiently educated people in the Pacific,'” three members of the W.H.O.’s Chinese coronavirus response team in Asia told the AP this week.

“How many people in the Pacific have you killed so far and how many more do you want to kill further?” Kasai allegedly asked an unidentified Filipino W.H.O. staffer during a coronavirus meeting in Manila.

The W.H.O. regional director then asked the same Filipino woman “if she was incapable of delivering good presentations because she was Filipina.”

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefs the press on evolution of new coronavirus epidemic on January 29, 2020 in Geneva. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefs the press on evolution of new coronavirus epidemic on January 29, 2020 in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The W.H.O. complaint said more than 50 employees at the organization’s Western Pacific headquarters in Manila — the capital of the Philippines — contributed to the allegations detailed in the document. Kasai allegedly created a “toxic atmosphere” within the regional office through “a culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing,” according to the complaint.

Kasai denied the allegations made against him by the W.H.O. Western Pacific office complaint in a statement published by the AP on January 27.

“It is true that I have been hard on staff, but I reject the suggestion that I have targeted staff of any particular nationality,” he said.

“Racism goes against all of the principles and values I hold dear as a person. … I believe deeply and sincerely in W.H.O.’s mission to serve all countries and people,” Kasai added.

The W.H.O. is the international public health body of the United Nations (U.N.). Both the W.H.O. and the U.N. have long been accused of supporting various degrees of “abuse” while working within countries they are ostensibly attempting to aid.

Native residents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.)’s North Kivu and Ituri regions recently accused at least 21 W.H.O. employees of committing acts of “sexual abuse and exploitation (S.E.A.)” against them between August 2018 and June 2020. The W.H.O. staffers in question were stationed in eastern D.R.C. as part of the organization’s response to a local outbreak of Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever virus.

The W.H.O. contracted an independent commission to investigate the allegations of S.E.A. against its eastern D.R.C. staff. The commission published its initial findings on September 28, 2021, in a report detailing “multiple allegations of rape and offers of employment in exchange for sex,” W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on October 2, 2021.

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