Cholera is fast spreading through camps housing people displaced by Boko Haram militants in north-east Nigeria’s Borno state, the United Nations said.
Most deaths were recorded in Muna Garage camp on the outskirts of state capital Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Islamist insurgency that has destabilised neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
A UN report said more than 530 suspected cases of cholera were registered by Tuesday – more than three times the number reported five days earlier.
Twenty-three people died, it added, up from 11 reported on August 31.
The outbreak began late last month and aid workers warned Nigeria’s rainy season could spread disease in already unsanitary displacement camps.
About 1.8 million people have abandoned their homes because of violence or food shortages during the conflict, UN agencies say.
As well as Muna Garage, the nearby camps of Custom House, Ruwan Zafi and Bolori II also had cholera cases, and there were reports of outbreaks in Moguno and Dikwa, north-east and east of Maiduguri, the UN note said.
In Dikwa, 80 km from Maiduguri, there are 103 suspected cholera cases, 17 confirmed with a rapid screening test at the local hospital, but no outbreak has been officially declared.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection spread by contaminated food and water. It can be easily treated with oral rehydration solution if caught early, but the disease can kill within hours if left untreated.
The latest figures suggested a 4.3% fatality rate – well above the one percent rate the World Health Organisation rates as an emergency. The short incubation period of two hours to five days means the disease can spread with explosive speed.