American leadership is clear as COVID-19 continues to wreak damage around the globe, including over a million deaths worldwide and trillions of dollars in lost economic growth.

In leading the response globally, the State Department recently said, the U.S. allocated more than $1.6 billion in “emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance aimed at helping governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fight the pandemic.”

This spending includes hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to African nations as funds flow through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

An announcement Sept. 25 by the White House builds on this response by establishing the Africa Institute for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation—or the U.S. Africa Institute for short.

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Officials say the U.S. Africa Institute will capitalize on the uniquely American asset of historically black colleges and universities to lead an effort to “build the leadership and capacity of African health professionals, support African technological innovation, and create a data hub to support the rapid detection and mitigation of pandemics.”

This initiative is the first of many steps that doubtless will be taken by the U.S. to improve international pandemic prevention and response—a need exposed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The U.S. left the World Health Organization over its unwillingness to hold China to account for failing to report the coronavirus outbreak in a timely and transparent manner and its reluctance to adopt reforms to fix problems revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in a global pandemic, an impartial, science-oriented, multilateral effort to detect and respond to pandemics is vital. Hopefully, the WHO will adopt the reforms necessary to convince the U.S. to rejoin, but the U.S. wisely is bolstering alternative capabilities in the meantime.