The future of Michael Jackson's HEAL THE WORLD FOUNDATION kids' charity has been called into question, following years of inactivity.

Starved of funding and leadership, the organisation has stopped donating to charitable causes and has been suspended in California since 2002 for failing to file yearly accounting statements, records show. Other Jackson charities have withered as well, in a decline that began years before the BAD singer's latest child-molestation scandal broke.

His HEAL LA project, established to help aid inner-city children after the Los Angeles riots, has been suspended in California since 2001, and his NEVERLAND ZOO FOUNDATION, to preserve endangered animals, was dissolved in 1998.

With backing from the likes of PEPSICO and new age guru Deepak Chopra, Jackson launched Heal the World at New York's Radio City Music Hall in 1992, complete with a boys choir singing his hit single and the group's namesake, HEAL THE WORLD.

The collapse of the foundation could further tarnish Jackson's reputation as a children's advocate at a time when he is facing allegations he molested a boy. Jackson, 45, is awaiting trial.

The reasons for Heal the World's decline largely remain a mystery, but STUART BACKERMAN, a former spokesman for Jackson, says its work began tapering off because there wasn't an "inspirational force" or chief executive to drive the organisation.

He explains, "It just kind of went into suspended animation."

The charity built playgrounds, provided immunisations and funded scores of children's causes around the world. It helped pay for a Hungarian boy's lifesaving liver transplant and co-sponsored an airlift of more than 46 tons of relief supplies to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992.

Jackson stopped working with the organisation at the urging of friends and handlers who believed its activities were too "pedestrian" for the King of Pop, says SHMULEY BOTEACH, the group's former president.

Boteach, a rabbi, author and columnist who helped Jackson start Heal the Kids, explains, "He was being told this initiative was going to devalue him as a superstar. 'Overexpose' him was the word constantly used."

25/03/2004 17:47