The family of Michael Alvarez, a two-year-old child diagnosed with “Ulcerated Infantile Haemangioma”, has accused Nollywood actress, Kate Henshaw, and Project Alert, a non-governmental organization, of misinformation and a “deliberate campaign of calumny” over funds raised for the treatment of the disorder.
Ms. Henshaw and the NGO had come to the child’s rescue, last year, and had begun soliciting for funds from the public for treatment.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt the child’s mother is of unsound mind and her whereabouts unknown.
In a press statement obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the child’s family accused Ms. Henshaw and the NGO of “playing Lord over the family all because they had helped raise funds for the care of Baby Michael.”
The family particularly described the actions of the NGO as “malicious and dubious.”
“They, however, forgot to understand the full legal implications of soliciting for funds for the care of a minor,” the statement, issued on Friday, said.
“It is, therefore, the desire of the family to work with any other nongovernmental organization with a similar objective in a view to use the public funds already raised to take care of Baby Michael as that is the primary reason for the funds raised.
Ms. Henshaw had, through Project Alert, intervened to help save Baby Michael’s life after seeking and obtaining the family’s consent early last year.
“It must be said that the family and Project Alert enjoyed a cordial working relationship in admitting Baby Michael to Lagos University Teaching Hospital until the medical staff of LUTH embarked on industrial action sometime in June 2016,” the child’s family continued.
“Consequently, Baby Michael was moved, along with his grandmother, to Project Alert’s shelter at 21 Akinsanya Street, off Isheri Road, Berger, Lagos.
“In November of 2016, the family began to ask if any arrangements were being made to fly the baby out for medical treatment as promised, particularly as Baby Michael was not showing any visible improvement.”
But Project Alert, the child’s family stated, said they raised about N6 million, a disclosure which led to a dispute between the NGO and the family.
The dispute led to Josephine Chukwuma, Project Alert’s Executive Director, allegedly threatening to use the Department of Social Services under the Ministry of Youth and Social Development to deny the family access to their child.
“Mrs. Chukwuma went ahead with her threat when on 23rd day of December, 2016, officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development visited LUTH with the stated intention of directing officials of LUTH to discharge Baby Michael for onward admission to a motherless babies’ home.”
The family said it then demanded full custody of the child after learning that Project Alert had withdrawn its care “without any notice to the family.”
“We hereby reiterate our call for a full, audited account of monies received and expended on behalf of Baby Michael and to use the said funds for his healthcare.”
Phone calls and text messages to Ms. Henshaw were not responded to.
But Mrs. Chukwuma, responding to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry, described the attitude of the child’s family as “unfortunate.”
She added that the account housing the funds raised for the baby’s treatment had been audited.
“That is why we announced at the press conference of May 3rd, 2017, that since the family asked us to back off in February at a meeting with the Director of the Child Protection Unit, Social Welfare Department, Alausa,” the Project Alert boss said, “We can no longer keep people’s money, so we are refunding the monies.”
“It is unfortunate that while a sick child is staring them in the face, the family (his aunt, Syndi, and the boy’s grandmother) are busy antagonizing and insulting the very people who came to their aid.
“The family is busy telling lies all over the place to people who would be initially sympathetic but when they get to know the full story, would try calling them to order and they will reject and move to another.”
Mrs. Chukwuma said they had already begun contacting those who donated money for the child’s treatment for their refund.
“People have contacted us and we are collating the requests in preparation to start refunding,” she said.
“50 percent of the money was donated by Kate Henshaw and her friends. You ought to see the insultive text messages she has been sending to Kate. Kate said she’s done with the family and regrets trying to help.”
While denying claims of a promise to treat the child abroad, Mrs. Chukwuma said the first five weeks of the boy’s stay in hospital were solely paid by Ms. Henshaw.
“How could Kate promise treating the child abroad when she didn’t know exactly what was wrong with the boy and had not thought at the time there would even be a need to do public fundraising?
“They said they contacted a hospital in India that gave them a N12 million bill and they showed us. Lies. Even their first lawyer, Bisuga & Co. can attest to that. We had a meeting with them in November 2016 and Beacon Solicitors is their third lawyer.
“They said we refused to continue Baby Michael’s medical treatment. Lies. She (Syndi) asked both the Social Welfare and Project Alert to back off, just because based on the medical report from a consultant at LUTH, the Social Welfare went visiting their home at Ikorodu and decided to place the boy in an orphanage for a period of time to help monitor and ensure good hygiene and strict adherence to his medical needs,” Mrs. Chukwuma said.