Asia-Pacific WHO chief quizzed on racism and misconduct

Takeshi Kasai, World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific
Image credit: AP

Geneva: The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced on Saturday an investigation into a member of the “senior executive”, the head of the United Nations agency for the Western Pacific, for allegations of racism and misconduct.

“We have been aware of some concerns since late 2021 and are following due process. With the cooperation of the staff member, an investigation process is underway,” Tedros said on the final day of the WHO executive board meeting. in Geneva.

The WHO chief did not say when the investigation was launched, adding that “there is a limit to what we can say at this time”.

However, Tedros added that “we take these allegations seriously”.

The serious charges, detailed in an email seen by AFP after the case was revealed on Thursday by the Associated Press, target the head of the agency’s Western Pacific region, Japanese doctor Takeshi Kasai, who s is already said to be ready to cooperate with any investigation.

According to AP, dozens of WHO staff members filed an internal complaint in October before sending an email in mid-January to countries on the UN agency’s board.

In the email, they accused Kasai of “authoritarian and racist leadership”, adding that he had regularly shared inside information with the Japanese Foreign Ministry, of not wanting to criticize China and of having “wasted “donor money.

Countries express concern

Many countries expressed concerns about this earlier this week.

On Saturday, several diplomats again called on the WHO to investigate all allegations of misconduct.

“We take all allegations seriously and expect independent investigations to be carried out as a matter of priority,” an Australian official said on Saturday.

A UK representative said ‘once again we regret hearing about this first in the media’.

A Norwegian official said “we need a WHO that we all trust, Member States as well as staff, beneficiaries and the global community. This includes creating an organizational culture that promotes good ethics and builds trust within the organization and putting strong systems in place to enable this.”

The investigation comes at a time when the WHO is already under severe pressure.

The UN health agency has come under intense pressure to make sweeping changes following revelations in 2020 of widespread sexual abuse by aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Friday, major donor countries to the World Health Organization demanded that it accelerate and expand reforms aimed at preventing sexual abuse by field staff.

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