When conflict broke out in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in November, a woman living the US found herself suddenly cut off from her mother but she managed to get a message through against the odds.
Ethiopian American Semhal was used to speaking to her mother, who was visiting family in Tigray, every day.
Then fighting broke out on 4 November between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray region’s ruling party.
Suddenly Semhal couldn’t get through to her mother. The internet, phone lines and mobile phones had seemingly been cut off in the region.
Weeks passed. She didn’t know if her mother was alive or dead.
So, out of desperation, Semhal published a video on Instagram hoping that somehow her mum would see it.
She sobbed as she said:
“I’m sorry that this is happening to you. I just want you guys to know that nobody deserves this and that we are fighting every single day for you and that this will all be over soon and we will rebuild Tigray.”
The video went viral. But she still didn’t hear from her mother.
Unknown to Semhal, her mother and uncle had fled the place they were staying to try and find safety in the mountains.
They sought shelter where they could and begged for food and water until returning to her grandmother’s house, which had been looted.
She decided to try and get back to the US, still not yet having been able to speak to her daughter, which meant making a dangerous journey to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
On the way something incredible happened – once she started meeting people who had had an internet connection, they told her about her daughter’s Instagram video.
And so, despite everything, a daughter’s message got through to her mother.
She said this message made her feel like people in the US had not forgotten about what was happening in Tigray.