Micheline Warri, the girl found by an Auckland family near death on a remote island in Vanuatu, has made an astounding recovery.

Micheline was dehydrated, malnourished, had extensive infected skin sores and third-degree burns on her legs and feet when Toby and Nicole Janke found her in September, unresponsive in a mud-floor hut on Pentecost Island, 190km due north of Port Vila.

The Jankes, German nationals who have New Zealand residency and live in Auckland, were approached by a relative of Micheline's when they were passing on their yacht, Invictus.

They organised for her to be evacuated to hospital in Port Vila and have since dedicated themselves to her recovery.


On arrival at hospital Micheline weighed just 19kg and her blood count was dangerously low. At the time Toby Janke told the Herald: "It is a short-term issue to survive and a very big one about what next."

Today Micheline, 11, is nearly twice that weight, healthy but still needs expensive medication and quarterly monitoring at a hospital in New Caledonia for a rare genetic autoimmune disease that has been diagnosed.

Called Pemphigus Vulgaris, it is even rarer in children and Micheline's case is severe. It causes painful blistering on the skin and mucous membranes and if untreated can lead to death.

Toby Janke with Micheline Warri in the hospital at Port Vila in November.
Toby Janke with Micheline Warri in the hospital at Port Vila in November.

Her mother did not receive modern treatment for the disease and died five years ago.

Having ensured Micheline's survival, the Jankes hope to secure her future.

After weeks in hospital in Port Vila, Micheline spent months in a modern hospital in New Caledonia at a cost of $2000 a day.

Though she will never again be able to live in her village on Pentecoste, she is back in Vanuatu and will live with an aunt and her family in Luganville on Santo Island, which has a hospital.

She needs the expensive medicine Rituximap and to make regular trips to hospital in Noumea for monitoring.

A Givealittle page raised $95,000 which went towards Micheline bill for hospital care alone of $200,000.

The balance was provided by the Janke's family and friends plus an anonymous person who gave US$30,000 (NZ$44,000). Nicole Janke said all they know about that donor is that the money came via a superyacht agency.

"We need to build up a backlog because if she relapses we will need to fly her immediately for care in hospital in New Caledonia."

Micheline Warri with Toby Janke. Micheline is now well on the way to recovery.
Micheline Warri with Toby Janke. Micheline is now well on the way to recovery.

Micheline had lain untreated in the hut for months.

"They believe in black magic. They thought she is bewitched ... but there is no doctor on the island, so they can't really see a way out."

The transformation is "huge", Nicole said. "She is like a different child. It is unbelievable to see how happy she is. She wants to celebrate. You can see she is full of life and she wants to enjoy life."

She has developed a close bond with Toby, who spent the first two months with her after she was first admitted to hospital and had since made regular trips to New Caledonia and now Vanuatu again.

"Toby just came back from Vanuatu a week ago and he is the one who is always present for her. She wants to hold his hand. She has really bonded. When I talk to her on the phone she is like, 'Where's Uncle Toby?'"

It had been a remarkable unexpected journey for the Jankes who have young daughters, Marlene and Juliane.

"We also benefited," Nicole said. "We learned a lot. We have received a lot of good things. It is unbelievable how many people helped and have stepped in. We had never experienced that before."