Abstract Burkina Faso has a high incidence and death rate of severe malaria, especially for children under 5 years of age. Although the malaria elimination program is a high-priority public health project, finding an effective strategy for managing the problem is a major challenge. Understanding the various factors that contribute to the severity of malaria is essential in designing an effective strategy. In this study, parental and environmental factors associated with severe malaria in Burkinabè children were investigated in two hospitals in Koudougou Health District, Burkina Faso. Between July and September 2012, a cross-sectional study was used to test 510 children under 5 years of age (mean age: 23.5 months) admitted with suspected malaria. Each child was screened using a blood smear to identify whether he or she had severe malaria based on the criteria established by the World Health Organization (WHO). When a child was diagnosed with malaria, either severe or not severe, the parents were interviewed by a trained interviewer using a structured questionnaire. A logistic regression was used to identify the determinants of severe malaria and associated deaths. Of the 510 children having malaria, 201 (39.4%) had severe malaria. Most of the patients (54.9%) lived in rural areas. The main factors associated with severe malaria were low education level of the father, low socioeconomic status [odds ratio (OR)=4.11, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.44–11.75], delayed treatment [OR=4.53, 95% CI=1.76–11.65], treating children at home as a typical practice when the child has a fever [OR=3.24, 95% CI=1.40–7.51], living in rural area [OR=6.66, 95% CI=3.36–13.22], and living beside a water gathering pond (OR=1.67, 95% CI=1.02–2.74]. Parental and environmental context associated with severe malaria for children under 5 years of age remains a serious public health problem that affects malaria outcomes in resource-limited areas. Promotion of early care is urgently required. Parents should be given information on the risks of not consulting a health facility when children exhibit symptoms of malaria.