The UN has praised South Sudanese authorities for the improvement in the dire security situation which has allowed fleeing refugees to return. Picture: Xinhua/Mohamed Babiker

Johannesburg – The South Sudanese authorities have received rare praise from the UN for an improvement in the security situation in Wau province in South Sudan which has allowed fleeing refugees to return.

“I am pleased to see that the local authorities, the police and national security have worked to improve the security environment,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to South Sudan, David Shearer, according to a Thursday press release.

On a visit to the world’s newest country Shearer pointed out that Wau could serve as a role model for other parts of the country where displacement rose so far this year.

But before more displaced people would be able to voluntarily return they needed to feel safe and confident about their future.

The number of displaced people living in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians (POC) site has fallen from 38 000 to 32 500 over the last two months with many returning to cultivate their land.

Tens of thousands of people fled violence in April amid revenge attacks between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-In Opposition fighters.

Speaking to reporters earlier in Juba, Shearer credited more active patrolling by National Security and the police in Wau for helping to stabilise the area.

He called for continued work on security, including through UNMISS patrols, so that humanitarian services could be strengthened closer to people's homes and not just near the POCs.

About 213 000 of people are still sheltering at UNMISS Protection of Civilians sites across the country.

The number of people displaced in South Sudan rose to nearly four million during the first half of this year, due to insecurity in Jonglei and Upper Nile provinces.

That figure includes 1.9 million who have been internally displaced and two million who fled to neighbouring countries – one million in Uganda alone.