As with many issues that are exacerbated by extreme poverty, it’s often the youngest and most vulnerable who are hurt the most. The world’s children are disproportionately affected by food and nutrition shortages. Living with chronic hunger and malnutrition puts children at risk of dying from common colds and infection. And even if children do recover from these diseases, their recovery times are often delayed.
Stunting is even more common than being underweight in the developing world. Globally, 160 million children have inadequate height due to chronic hunger and malnutrition. In the developing world, children from the poorest families fare much worse than those from the wealthiest households; children from the bottom quintile of households are twice as likely to be stunted as those from the top quintile.22
Struggles with poverty and hunger leads to bandwidth poverty, an attention shortage that creates a negative, reinforcing cycle. It is difficult to concentrate at school or at work, when you worry about where your next meal is coming from. Without sufficient cognitive function or “bandwidth” to spend on other tasks that require more thought, low-income families and individuals are more likely to make suboptimal choices that leave them worse off.