Japan to monitor WHO investigation into director’s alleged racism and abuse | Radio WGN 720

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FILE – World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai, speaks to the media at the start of the five-day annual session Monday, October 7, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. Current and former employees have accused Kasai of racist, unethical and abusive behavior that has undermined the United Nations health agency’s efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. The allegations were exposed in an internal complaint filed in October 2021 and an email in January 2022 sent by unidentified “affected WHO staff” to senior management and the board. Kasai denies the charges. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government said Friday it would monitor the World Health Organization’s investigation into staff complaints of racism and abuse by a senior Japanese official at the agency, but denied having inappropriately received sensitive vaccine information from him.

WHO staff have alleged that Dr Takeshi Kasai, senior director of the UN health agency in the Western Pacific, engaged in unethical, racist and abusive behavior, undermining their efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal complaint filed last October.

The complaints were also emailed to senior WHO officials last week and describe a “toxic atmosphere” with “a culture of systemic intimidation” at WHO regional headquarters in the Philippines. Tapes obtained by The Associated Press also showed Kasai, who rules a vast region that includes China and Japan, made derogatory remarks to his staff during meetings based on nationality.

Kasai denied the allegations.

Koichiro Matsumoto, assistant cabinet secretary for public affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, told the AP on Friday that the government understands the WHO is taking appropriate action and that Japan plans to carefully monitor the investigation of the WHO.

Matsumoto denied that the Japanese government inappropriately received sensitive information about Kasai’s vaccines that it obtained by abusing its position.

“There is no truth (in the allegation) that the Japanese government improperly accepted sensitive information related to our vaccine contributions,” he said.

He said that Japan takes seriously the importance of maintaining equal and equitable access to safe, effective and high-quality vaccines for all countries and regions, and that the Japanese government has provided support through cooperation with COVAX, an international cooperative program formed to ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as WHO and affected governments.

Since June 2021, Japan has provided 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine – 17.6 million doses through COVAX and 24.6 doses through bilateral agreements.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Friday he was unaware of the allegations against Kasai before reading the media reports and would seek a briefing from the WHO.

He suggested that WHO’s internal processes for reviewing such important claims would benefit from some sort of external scrutiny.

“We will seek an independent opinion from the WHO on the nature and response to these claims,” ​​Hunt said.

These claims add to a litany of internal protests by WHO staff over the agency’s handling of the pandemic over the past two years, including privately complaining about China’s belated sharing of information while publicly praising the government.

The WHO has already dealt with internal complaints from staff members alleging systemic racism, sexism and other issues. Its chief executive Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ordered an internal investigation in January 2019 to assess these allegations. Last year, the AP reported that WHO senior management had been made aware of several reports of sexual abuse involving its own staff during the Ebola outbreak in Congo, but did not. acted.

WHO staff members said they took their complaints directly to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade asking for help, as the Australian government is considered one of the member countries of the most influential WHO in the region.

Staff members said Australia told them to take their complaints to the WHO.

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McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.

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