Metro Manila, Philippines— The World Health Organization (WHO) has dismissed the regional director for its Western Pacific office headquartered in Manila over allegations of misconduct.
In a statement dated March 8, the WHO said the accusations covered the latter half of 2021 and 2022. It did not directly name Dr. Takeshi Kasai in the statement, only referring to him by his title.
“In line with the Organization’s policy of zero tolerance for abusive conduct, the allegations were investigated and subsequently reviewed in accordance with the normal procedures applicable to all WHO staff members,” the WHO wrote.
“These procedures resulted in findings of misconduct,” it added.
The WHO did not elaborate on the claims made against Kasai, but the Associated Press (AP) reported last year that dozens of staffers have accused him of “racist, unethical and abusive behavior,” which led to a “toxic atmosphere” and a “culture of systemic bullying and public ridiculing.”
In the same article, AP reported that Kasai denied the allegations.
Kasai also said he promptly took steps to communicate with his staff and was committed to making changes to ensure a positive work environment.
Following due process, the WHO said Kasai was provided with copies of all relevant evidence and was given the chance to respond to the allegations.
His contract was terminated after careful consideration of the findings and consultation with the regional committee for the Western Pacific and the executive board, the organization added.
The election cycle for Kasai’s replacement will begin in April when member states of the region will be invited to submit proposed candidates.
The WHO explained the election itself will occur at a closed meeting of the regional committee in October, and the nomination will go to the executive board for approval.
The United Nations agency also said until the new regional director takes office, Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab — who has served as officer-in-charge of the Western Pacific region since August 2022, and who was formerly regional director for Europe — will assume the role in an acting capacity.
Kasai, a Japanese doctor, began his term as regional director in February 2019.
Before being appointed to the role, he was director of programme management, the second highest position at the WHO Western Pacific office.
Kasai also served as the WHO representative in Vietnam from 2012 to 2014.