Staffers Accuse Top WHO Official of Racism and Abuse

( – The World Health Organization (WHO) has been instrumental in the fight against COVID-19 around the globe. It’s the go-to health agency for many countries, and works with the United Nations to coordinate the pandemic response and to mitigate the spread and risk of new variants.

Although the organization has undisputedly done a lot of good during the pandemic, it has also been embroiled in controversy. Disturbing allegations against one of its top officials have come to light and it could be impacting the organization’s COVID-19 response.

Abuse and Racism

On January 27, the Associated Press (AP) posted an extensive report about allegations against WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai. According to the report, 30 staffers wrote an internal complaint that told of the experiences more than 50 people had with the director. The complaint was emailed to the executive board and senior leadership again in January by “concerned WHO staff.” It laid bare disturbing allegations of racism and abusive and unethical behavior by Kasai and others at the Manila, Philippines offices.

The complaint alleges Kasai, who is Japanese, often made racist comments about his staff based on their nationality. For example, it claims he once interrogated a Filipino staffer during a meeting about the coronavirus asking how many people they’d killed in the Pacific and how many they “want to kill further.” He then asked if the staffer was bad at delivering presentations because she was Filipina. The staff members accused him of frequently insulting staffers from the Philippines, China and Malaysia.

According to the complaint, there was a “toxic atmosphere” and a culture of bullying at the Manila office. It’s so bad, staff members have reportedly been driven to tears.

COVID-19 Response

Kasai’s office is in charge of much of the Western Pacific region, including the Philippines, China and Japan. The COVID-19 virus started in that region, allegedly in China, and has spread across the globe. At the beginning of the pandemic, then-US President Donald Trump accused the organization of spreading Chinese propaganda instead of trying to keep the world safe from the deadly virus.

Kasai was at the helm of the fight against COVID. His treatment of the staff was reportedly so bad, many people employed with the organization quit and have not yet been replaced. Arguably, in the middle of a pandemic that has killed millions, one might expect the world’s leading health agency to be professional in its behavior, fully staffed and ready for battle.

The complaint further alleges Kasai blamed the increased COVID cases in some countries on their “lack of capacity due to their inferior culture, race and socioeconomic level.” He also claimed the COVID response was hindered by uneducated people in the region.


Kasai denied he ever made racist comments. He told the AP it’s been a difficult time for the agency because of the pandemic. He went on to say he’s committed to changing the environment at the headquarters in Manila. To that end, he reportedly told all of his senior directors, they must “totally support” him and “reject” the allegations against him. Does that sound like the actions of someone committed to fostering a positive work environment?

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