Purpose: The impact of disasters caused by natural hazards on people in affected communities is mediated by a whole range of circumstances such as the intensity of the disaster, type and nature of the community affected and the nature of loss and displacement. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the need to adopt a holistic or integrated approach to assessment of the process of disaster recovery, and to develop a multidimensional assessment framework. Design/methodology/approach: The study is designed as a novel qualitative assessment of the recovery process using qualitative data collection techniques from a sample of communities affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in Eastern and Southern Sri Lanka. Findings: The outcomes of the interventions have varied widely depending on such factors as the nature of the community, the nature of the intervention and the mode of delivery for donor support. The surveyed communities are ranked in terms of the nature and extent of recovery. Practical implications: The indices of recovery developed constitute a convenient tool of measurement of effectiveness and limitations of external interventions. The assessment used is multidimensional and socially inclusive. Originality/value: The approach adopted is new to post-disaster recovery assessments and is useful for monitoring and evaluation of recovery processes. It also fits into the social accountability model as the assessment is based on community experience with the recovery process.