Kabul and Monrovia, the respective capitals of Afghanistan and Liberia, have recently emerged from long-lasting armed conflicts. In both cities, a large number of organisations took part in emergency water supply provision and later in the rehabilitation of water systems. Based on field research, this paper establishes a parallel between the operations carried out in the two settings, highlighting similarities and analysing the two most common strategies. The first strategy involves international financial institutions, which fund large-scale projects focusing on infrastructural rehabilitation and on the institutional development of the water utility, sometimes envisaging private-sector participation. The second strategy involves humanitarian agencies, which run community-based projects, in most cases independently of the water utilities, and targeting low income areas. Neither of these approaches manages to combine sustainability and universal service. The paper assesses their respective strengths and weaknesses and suggests ways of improving the quality of assistance provided.