According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs about 2,300 people were suspected to be infected with cholera. (File picture: Xinhua)

At least 44 people were killed by an outbreak of cholera in north-eastern Nigeria where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced due to violence by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, the UN said Monday.

About 2,300 people were suspected to be infected with the disease, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UN said it fears 3.7 million people could potentially become affected by the cholera outbreak.

The first cases of cholera, an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated, were identified in Borno state on August 16 in camps for the internally displaced.

"The camps are congested; there is not enough water, sanitation facilities are poor, and the health care system is weak," said OCHA deputy humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria Peter Lundberg. 

The outbreak comes amidst a humanitarian crisis, with 8.5 million people in need of life-saving aid in the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, according to the UN.

The underlying reason for the crisis is the steady threat Boko Haram poses to communities in the north-east.

Since 2009, at least 14,000 people have died at the hands of the Sunni fundamentalists in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.7 million people in the region have fled their homes due to Boko Haram.

The extremists' goal is to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

- DPA