During a recent telephone conversation with my aunt, who lives in Liberia, I could hear trepidation in her voice for the first time. At the same time, though, she remained typically stoic, her faith in God unshakable after surviving two armed insurgencies. “They are saying on the radio that before January [2015] thousands of us will die,” said Auntie Arinah. “This thing is getting very scary. We rebuke those numbers!”

I couldn’t help feeling moved by my aunt’s tenacity in the midst of her anxiety. Ebola fatality projections seem to have created an atmosphere of psychological distress in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, nations still recovering from the trauma of conflict.

I hadn’t thought about the racial underbelly of Ebola airport surveillance until I experienced it for myself this week.

It all started at Heathrow Airport, where a “trainee” airline official asked me three times what I was doing in the UK even though I mentioned five times that I was a student, pointing emphatically to my very valid visa in a passport emblazoned with “Republic of Liberia” on the cover in gold letters.

His boss, a no-nonsense looking woman with dark hair and soft brown eyes, wanted proof of residence in the UK, something I had never been asked to show before. When I looked at her, visibly annoyed, she tried a different line of questioning.

“Do you have other proof that you are studying here?”

When I whipped out my school ID, she seemed momentarily appeased but not quite satisfied.

The people of Liberia and the West African region face an existential threat. The threat has implications beyond the sub-region and the African continent. The Ebola crisis constitutes a threat to international peace and security. It is far past time for the world community to step up its engagement from a “public health emergency of international concern” to a Chapter Seven Mandate to “Deliver as One.”

The evidence of the threat is abundant since the Ebola outbreak began making headlines worldwide a few months ago – the unfolding drama in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea with the decimation of large population segments, destruction of cherished human values, human insecurity on an unprecedented scale, including the absence of medical attention to non-Ebola ailments. Add to this the potential that if unchecked in time the virus could mutate, become transmissible and present a clearer and more present danger. Already some have begun to speak of a shift from linear growth to exponential, citing possibilities of 20,000 to 100,000 casualties in the months immediately ahead.

There is no math to the roads of Logan Town in Monrovia. In Logan Town, a name that sounds like “Lukin” when spoken with the northern Liberian accent of most of my relatives, the front of a cement house may face the side of another. Two back yards may serve as necessary borders for a make-shift zinc house. This asymmetry is what makes the middle-class neighborhoods of Monrovia and their residents as married as they are. Laughter is a group art, tears are just as intertwined and there are plenty of Ol’ Mas in the pot to choose from.

How can you prosecute a man hanging on a lifeline from an infectious disease? According to news reports published last week, that’s precisely what Liberia vowed to do to Thomas Eric Duncan — the first patient diagnosed with Ebola while on US soil — if he ever made it back to the country. Duncan died on Wednesday from Ebola related complications.

His tragic demise should represent a prick on the conscience of those who threatened prosecution. This is the same kind of insensitive scaremongering that has driven people underground, afraid to cooperate with authorities. With more than 3,000 Ebola-related deaths reported, double the number of infections and no indication of the outbreak abating any time soon, inflammatory statements about criminalizing Ebola only make matters worse.