Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the issue of post-disaster livelihood recovery through economic rehabilitation, with the illustration of post-tsunami promotion of microentrepreneurship activities generating employment and income among the affected populations ; Design/methodology/approach – The paper examines two field case studies in Aceh (Indonesia) and Tamil Nadu (India), where a well-established European NGO carried out economic relief and microentrepreneurship rehabilitation in 2005-2007 ; Findings – Despite unlimited trust in rapid reconstruction capacity, post-tsunami livelihood recovery has been chaotic and uncoordinated. Contrary to humanitarian agencies in charge of emergency relief, only a few development agencies and NGOs were able to deliver a rapid rehabilitation of microeconomic activities existing locally before the disaster ; Research limitations/implications – There are values but also obvious limits to comparing the micro-level experiences of a major European NGO in two different locations such as Aceh and Tamil Nadu, and to deducing macro- and meso-level lessons to be learned ; Practical implications – There are difficulties in benchmarking the divison of labour but necessary coordination among development agencies and their humanitarian counterparts in the field of post-disaster sustainable economic rehabilitation ;Originality/value – Post-disaster economic security and livelihood recovery are at the forefront of current international policy research in humanitarian and development cooperation circles. Documented case studies and lessons to be learned are still scarce for feeding possible best practices.