Young Rugby Players Tackle Hunger In Madagascar
Published on 8 July 2014

One of two 'Tackling Hunger' rugby matches in Antananarivo. 

Copyright: WFP/Volana Rarivoson

Antananarivo - It may be rugby but it's rugby with a difference. When the children of Madagascar take to the pitch, they usually do so barefoot. So, it was quite an event when, in early July, two youth teams turned up at Andohatapenaka stadium in Antananarivo and were presented with boots for the first time in their lives.

Two exhibition matches were held at the stadium as part of the ‘Tackle Hunger’ partnership between the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Rugby Board (IRB).

The matches pitted young players from two WFP-supported centres for vulnerable children against Malagasy Rugby Federation school teams. One WFP team was made up of boys, the other of girls.

On display during the games was the Webb Ellis Cup, the rugby world’s most prestigious trophy, named after William Webb Ellis, the schoolboy popularly credited with having invented the game in England in the early 19th century.


Won one, lost one
At the end of the mini-tournament, honors were even with the WFP boys’ team having won their game and the girls’ team having narrowly lost theirs.

“The match was special,” said Tahina afterwards. “It was my first time in a competition. I enjoyed playing even if I was not that good.  At the centre we just play between us. I struggled a little with the boots because I’m not used to them.”

Tahina (12) is one of 200 vulnerable children at SOS Village d’enfants receiving nutritious daily hot meals from WFP. The centre hosts poor children - particularly those living on the streets - and provides them with general schooling while also offering life skills and extracurricular activities.

Tahina standing with WFP food“Rugby teaches us important values such as respect and teamwork,” said Avotra (12) from the Loharanosoa centre boys’ team. “We practice regularly and take part in tournaments. I wouldn't have the strength to play rugby if I didn’t receive a meal at the centre so I’m really grateful for that because my parents are poor.”

Sporting excellence
WFP is currently working in orphanages and educational centres, providing food assistance to 33,000 vulnerable children in Antananarivo, Toamasina, Toliara and the southeast region of Madagascar. Children receive a daily ration made of rice, pulses and oil and Super Cereal, a micronutrient-fortified corn-soya blend.

‘Tackle Hunger’ is a ten-year partnership between WFP and the IRB which raises awareness about WFP’s life-saving work on the frontlines of hunger around the world and aims to mobilise funds to support initiatives like school feeding.  Next year’s Rugby World Cup in England presents an opportunity for the ‘Tackle Hunger’ partnership to highlight the strong link between good nutrition and the intellectual and physical development in children that can support sporting excellence.

WFP Offices
About the author

Andosoa Ranaivomahefa

Communications Assistant

Andosoa Ranaivomahefa worked for WFP as a Communications Assistant. She was based in Antananarivo, Madagascar.