On April 4, Licho, one of the four last speakers of the Great Andamanese language family and the last speaker of the Sare language died of tuberculosis and heart disease in Port Blair on South Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal, according to Scientific American.
COVID-19 has already reached the remote Andaman Islands, where 15 individuals have tested positive as of April 21. Although 11 have been reported free of the virus, the possibility of community transmission is still possible, thus putting members of the Indigenous communities on the islands at risk along with the languages they speak. The Great Andamanese language family, now spoken by only three individuals—all of whom are more than 50 years old and suffer from a variety of ailments—is at imminent risk of extinction.
Games, songs and tourism bans are some of the measures that authorities and human rights groups from Australia to India are using to keep indigenous people safe from the coronavirus.
“We know from the 2009 H1N1 outbreak that the Aboriginal population had a death rate of four times that of the general population,” said Blair McFarland, operations manager at non-profit Central Australia Youth Link Up Service (CAYLUS).