However, the lack of economic opportunities means that the locals often have no choice but to continue planting and forest for work.
“I only know how to do this kind of work – I have no other skills,” says Govindha, a 56-year-old plantation worker who slipped into a coma for a week after contracting the disease. His wife Laxmi was also hospitalized. “I thought we were both going to die,” he remembers. “I told my son to give our cow to someone else.” Despite the trials, the couple returned to work on the plantation.
After Suresh’s death, Gayatri, now the sole breadwinner of the family, also felt she had no choice but to return to her job of collecting areca nuts from the plantation. Still, he believes that better awareness of the disease is important; If he had taken Suresh to the hospital immediately, he said, he would still be alive.
“I hadn’t heard of KFD before,” he says. “If I had known, I could have acted faster.”
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